SAN ANTONIO, Texas. (KFSN) --We have four major salivary glands and hundreds more in our mouth- not that we really notice, except when those glands are damaged. That's when the pain and dryness can be excruciating. Researchers using a new method of growing cells may have found the answer for relief.
Imagine having to carry water with you everywhere you go. It's a way of life for people who have Sjogren's syndrome.
Vidya Sankar, DMD, MHS, Director of the Oral Medical Clinic at UT Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas told Ivanhoe, "Saliva is something that you never even think about unless you don't have it anymore."
Sjogren's destroys the salivary glands, leaving patients like Judie Willette with chronic dry mouth and pain.
Willette said, "The tooth was just tearing at the side of my tongue because there was no saliva to lubricate it."
A lack of saliva can also lead to serious dental problems, difficulty eating, and even sleeping because of dry mouth.
"It affects the patient's quality of life tremendously," Dr. Sankar explained.
Once salivary glands are damaged, it's permanent, but there may be hope. Researchers are now trying to regrow salivary gland cells.
Chih-Ko Yeh, BDS, PhD, Professor of Comprehensive Dentistry at UT Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas told Ivanhoe, "It's not like other tissue that can grow. Salivary tissue is the most difficult to grow."
A matrix scaffolding platform made out of silk is creating the ideal environment for stem cells to grow into salivary gland cells. The doctors have been able to grow salivary gland cells in a unique micro-environment. Eventually, they hope to be able to transplant them into patients. In the meantime, Judie is hopeful that science will someday allow her to sip away, less often.
The researchers say while the current results are promising, actually reaching the transplant phase is still at least five years away.
If you would like more information, please contact:
UTHSCSA School of Dentistry Center for Oral Health Care and Research Oral Medicine Clinic