When Your Mouth Can't Water: Finding New Ways to Help People Salivate
When people can't salivate properly, they suffer inordinately. Since they can't produce adequate levels of saliva, they develop chronic dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, severe tooth decay, and infections of the throat (oropharyngeal) and the lining of the digestive system (mucositis). At present, there is no adequate treatment for such people. Most are in constant discomfort, and many suffer pain all the time.
Each year, irradiation treatment for head and neck cancer patients and Sjogren's syndrome (an arthritis-related disease that affects the moisture-creating glands) produce some 4,000 and 160,000 cases, respectively, of individuals with damaged salivary glands. These people are truly disabled and are constantly searching for help.
Canada Research Chair Simon Tran has designed a research program aimed at coming up with effective treatments for these sufferers through the regeneration or implantation of artificial glands using stem cells that are drawn from the patients' own tissues. In the process, he is identifying, isolating, and characterizing post-natal (adult) stem cells of the craniofacial complex (such as salivary and periodontal stem cells) for regenerative medicine.
The number of Quebecers who will benefit from this kind of stem cell-based therapy for salivary gland dysfunction is estimated to be in the tens of thousands. Just imagine how that translates for the rest of the world!