Functional salivary gland regeneration by transplantation of a bioengineered organ germ

Nat Commun. 2013:4:2498. doi: 10.1038/ncomms3498.


Salivary gland hypofunction, also known as xerostomia, occurs as a result of radiation therapy for head cancer, Sjögren's syndrome or aging, and can cause a variety of critical oral health issues, including dental decay, bacterial infection, mastication dysfunction, swallowing dysfunction and reduced quality of life. Here we demonstrate the full functional regeneration of a salivary gland that reproduces the morphogenesis induced by reciprocal epithelial and mesenchymal interactions through the orthotopic transplantation of a bioengineered salivary gland germ as a regenerative organ replacement therapy. The bioengineered germ develops into a mature gland through acinar formations with a myoepithelium and innervation. The bioengineered submandibular gland produces saliva in response to the administration of pilocarpine and gustatory stimulation by citrate, protects against oral bacterial infection and restores normal swallowing in a salivary gland-defective mouse model. This study thus provides a proof-of-concept for bioengineered salivary gland regeneration as a potential treatment of xerostomia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Citric Acid / pharmacology
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Graft Survival / physiology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Pilocarpine / pharmacology
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Regeneration*
  • Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Submandibular Gland / innervation
  • Submandibular Gland / pathology
  • Submandibular Gland / surgery*
  • Tissue Engineering
  • Transplantation, Homologous
  • Xerostomia / pathology
  • Xerostomia / surgery
  • Xerostomia / therapy*


  • Pilocarpine
  • Citric Acid