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Systemic aging and salivary stem cells

Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Investigator(s): Sarah Knox, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2019 (Cycle 28) Grant #: 28IR-0071 Award: $934,778
Subject Area: Oral Disease and Dental Health
Award Type: High Impact Research Project Award

Initial Award Abstract

Aging is the most dominant risk factor for multiple diseases including oral cancer. Due to limited therapies for the elimination of oral cancers, patients routinely undergo radiotherapy, and although beneficial for killing cancer cells, healthy tissue such as the saliva secreting salivary glands are also adversely affected. This inadvertent damage results in dry mouth and has a detrimental impact on the oral health and well-being of the patient. With few symptomatic treatments and no restorative therapies available, this condition lasts a lifetime. Stem cell therapy offers the exciting opportunity of restoring saliva production through regenerating damaged salivary glands. However, despite the vast majority of oral cancer patients being aged 45yrs or older and the well described reduction in salivary gland function that occurs with increasing age, the effects of aging and radiation on the ability of salivary glands to repair after injury is unknown. Thus, in these studies we will define the ability of aged salivary stem cells to repair the salivary gland after radiotherapy and determine if an improvement in the nerve supply can promote regeneration. We perform these experiments with the goal of developing targeted stem cell based strategies for long-term functional restoration of salivary glands in both young and elderly oral cancer survivors.