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Silk structure may help regenerate salivary cells.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, July 27, 2015 -- A research team here has used silk fibers as a framework to grow stem cells into salivary gland cells.

Led by Chih-Ko Yeh of the University of Texas Health Science Center, the team discovered a process that may eventually help more than four million people in the U.S. with a degenerative autoimmune disease called Sjogren's syndrome, in which the body attacks its own tear ducts and salivary glands.

Saliva helps with speaking, swallowing, washing food off teeth, initial food digestion and preventing oral infections. Insufficient saliva can cause chronic bad breath, cavities, gum disease, as well as systemic infections.

There is no treatment for low-producing or nonfunctioning salivary glands, and the glands have little regenerative capability.

Low saliva production also is a devastating problem for thousands of patients who have had radiation treatment for head and neck cancer, as well as about 50 percent of older Americans whose medications can cause dry mouth, also known as xerostomia.

"Salivary gland stem cells are some of the most difficult cells to grow in culture and retain their function," Yeh said.

The researchers we purified silk fibers by removing a number of contaminants, then put stem cells from rat salivary glands on the silk framework with a media to nourish them. After several weeks in culture, the cells produced a 3-D matrix covering the silk scaffolds. The cells had many of the same characteristics as salivary gland cells that grow in the mouth.

Until now, retention of salivary gland cell properties has not been possible using other tissue culture techniques.

"This unique culture system has great potential for future salivary gland research and for the development of new cell-based therapeutics." Yeh said.

Silk is a good choice for stem cell scaffolding because it is natural, biodegradable, flexible and porous, providing the developing cells easy access to oxygen and nutrition. It also does not cause inflammation, as other scaffold materials have.

Because there are few salivary gland stem cells in the human mouth, the scientists plan to continue using rat salivary glands to refine the process, but eventually hope to use stem cells derived from human bone marrow or umbilical cord blood to regenerate salivary glands for humans.

The researchers pioneered the development of cell culture technology for harvesting large numbers of stem cells from human bone marrow and human umbilical cord blood. Stem cells from these two sources are abundant and can be guided into different types of cells using tissue engineering.

Yeh hopes that within the next decade stem cells can be transfused into damaged human salivary glands to jumpstart tissue repair or engineered into artificial salivary gland tissue to replace damaged glands.

The new process has been submitted for a patent.

Citation: Bin-Xian Zhang et al., "Silk Fibroin Scaffolds Promote Formation of the Ex Vivo Niche for Salivary Gland Epithelial Cell Growth, Matrix Formation, and Retention of Differentiated Function," Tissue Engineering Part A, 2015; 21 (9-10): 1611 DOI: 10.1089/ten.tea.2014.0411

Abstract: http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/ten.tea.2014.0411 Contact: Chih-Ko Yeh, yeh@uthscsa.edu

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Title Annotation:Advanced Stem Cell Technology
Publication:Stem Cell Business News
Date:Aug 10, 2015
Words:517
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