Engineered salivary glands keep juices flowing

Organs grown in a lab dish do their job when transplanted into mice

GLAND TRANSPLANT  Engineered salivary glands were successfully transplanted into mice lacking the organs. Mouse nerve fibers, green, infiltrate the transplanted tissue, red, in this micrograph. 

T. Tsuji et al. Nature Comm. 2013

Salivary glands engineered in the lab wet the mouths of mice after transplantation, researchers report October 1 in Nature Communications.

Takashi Tsuji of the Tokyo University of Science in Noda, Japan and colleagues extracted clusters of immature cells from mouse embryos and grew nascent salivary glands in a gel-like substance for three days. Then the researchers implanted the incipient organs in mice that had had salivary glands removed. The engineered glands took up residence in the mice and pumped out saliva.

The team hopes that the technique will pave the way toward treatments of salivary gland disorders in people.

In another paper published in the same journal, Tsuji and colleagues also report having grown functioning tear glands in the lab. 

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