Concise Review: Salivary Gland Regeneration: Therapeutic Approaches from Stem Cells to Tissue Organoids

Stem Cells. 2017 Jan;35(1):97-105. doi: 10.1002/stem.2455. Epub 2016 Jul 15.


The human salivary gland (SG) has an elegant architecture of epithelial acini, connecting ductal branching structures, vascular and neuronal networks that together function to produce and secrete saliva. This review focuses on the translation of cell- and tissue-based research toward therapies for patients suffering from SG hypofunction and related dry mouth syndrome (xerostomia), as a consequence of radiation therapy or systemic disease. We will broadly review the recent literature and discuss the clinical prospects of stem/progenitor cell and tissue-based therapies for SG repair and/or regeneration. Thus far, several strategies have been proposed for the purpose of restoring SG function: (1) transplanting autologous SG-derived epithelial stem/progenitor cells; (2) exploiting non-epithelial cells and/or their bioactive lysates; and (3) tissue engineering approaches using 3D (three-dimensional) biomaterials loaded with SG cells and/or bioactive cues to mimic in vivo SGs. We predict that further scientific improvement in each of these areas will translate to effective therapies toward the repair of damaged glands and the development of miniature SG organoids for the fundamental restoration of saliva secretion. Stem Cells 2017;35:97-105.

Keywords: Organoids; Radiation therapy; Regeneration; Salivary gland; Salivary hypofunction; Stem cells; Transplantation; Xerostomia.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Organoids / transplantation*
  • Regeneration / physiology*
  • Salivary Glands / physiology*
  • Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Tissue Engineering