Protecting salivary glands from irradiation damage

2013

Challenge

Each year, more than 500,000 patients worldwide are treated for head and neck cancer . The current standard of care involves exposure to radiation that can damage salivary glands, leading to permanent dry mouth (xerostomia) that negatively affects oral health and overall quality of life.

Advance

IRP scientists led by Matthew Hoffman, B.D.S., Ph.D., showed that treating irradiated mouse fetal salivary gland tissues with the neurotrophic protein neurturin to restore parasympathetic function improves salivary gland regeneration.

Impact

The findings provide a new target and research direction for how salivary glands (and other sensitive organs) may be protected or regenerated in people undergoing extensive treatment for cancers.

Publications

Knox SM, Lombaert IM, Haddox CL, Abrams SR, Cotrim A, Wilson AJ, Hoffman MP. (2013). Parasympathetic stimulation improves epithelial organ regeneration. Nat Commun. 4, 1494.