Silk and Stem Cells May Help Engineer Salivary Glands for Dry Mouth

Closeup of woman's lips with makeup laughing

Xerostomia is a medical term used for dry mouth due to non-functioning or low-producing of salivary glands. Dry Mouth can lead to eating and speech problems, bad breath, increase in dental cavities and mouth infection. Dry mouth could be caused by many things including certain medications, age, cancer treatments, dehydration, tobacco, exercising, anxiety disorders, If you suffer from dry mouth, ask your doctor or dentist because it’s not a disease but it could be a symptom caused from a serious health condition as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV/AIDS, diabetes (poorly controlled), Sjogren’s syndrome and hypothyroidism.

However, there’s now a promise of relief for the millions who suffer from dry mouth. Studies show, with the help of silk fibers, that it may be possible to produce salivary glands out of stem cells.  There are currently no treatments for dry mouth and salivary glands have little capacity to renew themselves on their own. A professor in comprehensive dental care who runs a lab focusing on salivary glands research says, “The cells have many of the same characteristics as salivary gland cells that grow in the mouth.” She also states, “salivary glands stem cells are some of the most difficult cells to grow.”

The team from University of Texas at San Antonio describes what happened when they made a silk framework from purified silk fibers, populated it with stem cells and added a nourishing medium to promote growth. Professor Yeh describes what happened after several weeks in culture “the cells produced a 3D matrix covering the silk scaffolds.” Silk was used because it’s a natural porous and biodegradable product. They hope in the next decade stem cells their research can be used to repair damaged human salivary glands.

Our Marietta Dentist, Kirk Kimmerling DDS, Suzanna Aguilera DDS, and Garrick McGrath DMD invite you to our Marietta dentist practice; please contact us at 770-423-2900 to schedule a consultation if you think you suffer from dry mouth.


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