Stem Cells In Regenerative Medicine

In an initiative to better manage treatment-related complications for head and neck cancers, our project, titled Development of Salivary Regenerative Therapy to Treat Xerostomia, is using stem cells in regenerative medicine.

Head and neck cancers account for about 4% of all cancers in the United States. The current standard of care for head and neck cancers is a combination of surgery and radiation therapy.

In about 70% of patients undergoing this treatment, radiation therapy leads to chronic hyposalivation (xerostomia, also called dry mouth). Radiation therapy causes extensive damage to salivary parenchyma and decreases gland function. The complications of hyposalivation include impaired taste, dental caries, reduced quality of life, and difficulties with speech, food mastication and retaining dentures.

Pharmacotherapy in the form of saliva substitutes or cholinergic agents, such as pilocarpine, an M2 agonist, and cevimeline, an M3 agonist, are often used to stimulate salivary secretion and improve the symptoms but don't offer a durable long-term treatment to this condition.

Dr. Kannan and Jeffrey R. Janus, M.D., an otorhinolaryngologist at Mayo Clinic in Florida, have launched a two-site initiative funded by the Center for Regenerative Medicine to develop stem cell-based salivary regenerative therapy. Our team is using the recently developed chronic hyposalivation mouse model to test functionally intact salivary gland regeneration.