Radiation treatment of head and neck cancers, and autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren's syndrome, cause irreversible cellular damage in the salivary glands that usually renders them atrophic. The long-range goal of our work is to identify and characterize salivary gland progenitor cells for use in the repopulation of damaged glands. We have identified a distinct population of cells with the potential to differentiate into the major cell types of the salivary gland. Current research is focused on the role of these precursor cells in both differentiation and regeneration of the salivary gland, and on developing techniques to cultivate, expand and transplant them, in order to test their ability to contribute to gland repair.
Bullard T, Koek L, Roztocil E, Kingsley PD, Mirels L, Ovitt CE. Ascl3 expression marks a progenitor population of both acinar and ductal cells in mouse salivary glands. Dev Biol. 2008 Aug 1;320(1):72-8. Epub 2008 Apr 23.
Lan Y, Wang Q, Ovitt CE, Jiang R. A unique mouse strain expressing Cre recombinase for tissue-specific analysis of gene function in palate and kidney development. Genesis. 2007 Oct;45(10):618-24.