The research group led by Professor Takashi Tsuji of Tokyo University of Science and Organ Technologies Inc. has provided a proof-of-concept for bioengineered mature organ replacement as a regenerative therapy.
Current advances in regenerative therapies have been influenced by the study of embryonic development, stem cell biology, and tissue engineering technologies. The ultimate goal of regenerative therapy is to develop fully functional bioengineered tissues that can replace lost or damaged organs following disease, injury or aging. A research group led by Professor Takashi Tsuji (Professor in the Research Institute for Science and Technology, Tokyo University of Science, and Director of Organ Technologies Inc.) has provided a proof-of-concept for bioengineered mature organ replacement as a regenerative therapy.
Dr. Tsuji's research group (M. Ogawa et al.) reports the fully functional regeneration of a salivary gland that reproduces the morphogenesis induced by reciprocal epithelial and mesenchymal interactions through the orthotopic transplantation of a bioengineered salivary gland germ as a regenerative organ replacement therapy. The bioengineered germ developed into a mature gland through acinar formations with the myoepithelium and innervation. The bioengineered submandibular gland produced saliva in response to the administration of pilocarpine and gustatory stimulation by citrate, protected against oral bacterial infection and restored normal swallowing in a salivary gland defect mouse model. Thus, this study provides a proof-of-concept for bioengineered salivary gland regeneration as a potential treatment for xerostomia.
This research was performed in collaboration with Professor Tetsuhiko Tachikawa (Department of Oral Pathology, Showa University School of Dentistry, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, JAPAN).
Salivary glands play essential roles in normal upper gastrointestinal tract function and oral health, including the digestion of starch by salivary amylase, swallowing and the maintenance of tooth hard tissues through the production of saliva. There are three major salivary glands -- the parotid, submandibular and sublingual glands -- as well as minor salivary glands. Salivary glands are composedof duct, acinar, and myoepithelial cells.
The disease of salivary gland.
One concept that may be applicable for restoring salivary glands is regenerative therapy, which involves tissue stem-cell transplantation to restore damaged tissues and organs in a variety of diseases. Furthermore, organ replacement regenerative therapy, which can replace lost or damaged organs with a fully functional bioengineered organ, is also expected to provide a novel therapeutic strategy for organ transplantation. Our recent studies have provided proof-of-concept that fully functional regeneration of ectodermal organs, such as teeth and hair follicles, can be achieved by the transplantation of bioengineered organ germs that were reconstituted by our organ germ method (Nat. Methods 4, 227-30, 2007) for organ replacement regenerative therapy (PNAS 106, 13475-13480, 2009, Nat. Commun., 3, 784, 2012)
We demonstrated that each bioengineered salivary gland germ, including the submandibular and sublingual glands, had the potential to regenerate into mature glands using our previously developed organ germ method. After three days in organ culture, all of the bioengineered salivary gland germs underwent branching morphogenesis, followed by stalk elongation and cleft formation.
Engraftment of a bioengineered salivary gland
Saliva, which is produced from serous- and mucous-type acinar cells, plays essential roles in oral function. Histological analysis using haematoxylin and eosin (HE) staining and periodic acid and Schiff (PAS) staining revealed a distinctive acinar structure, including serous acinar cells, in the bioengineered submandibular gland and mucous acinar cells in the bioengineered sublingual gland. E-cadherin and calponin proteins were detected in the acinar and duct cells as well as in myoepithelial cells, which enveloped acinar cells in these bioengineered glands. Innervations were also detected in the interstitial tissue among acinar cells, and neurofilament H (NF-H)-expressing nerve fibres connected to calponin-positive myoepithelial cells. Our research demonstrates that engrafted bioengineered salivary gland germ cells successfully formed correct tissue structures and could secrete saliva in response to neural stimulation.
Functional analysis of bioengineered saliva secretion
Saliva secretion is essential to the maintenance of oral health, and xerostomia causes various health problems, including dental caries, periodontal disease, bacterial infection and swallowing dysfunction. To semiquantitatively analyse saliva secretion, we performed fluorescein diffusion analysis. Briefly, fluorescent sodium test paper, which contains a fluorescent dye that dissolves in saliva drippings, was placed on the tongue. Dye diffusion was not observed during the observation period in the salivary gland defect mice. Gradual diffusion and disappearance of the fluorescein dye in the oral cavity was observed in mice transplanted with the bioengineered submandibular gland. The number of oral bacteria was drastically increased in salivary gland defect mice compared to normal mice. The number of bacterial colonies that formed in the mice engrafted with the bioengineered submandibular gland germ was significantly reduced compared to the number in salivary gland defect mice. These results indicate that the bioengineered submandibular gland has a cleansing function that prevents dryness and inhibits bacterial growth by secreting saliva into the oral cavity.
Functional recovery of swallowing and survival
Here, we demonstrate the regeneration of fully functional salivary glands through the orthotopic transplantation of a bioengineered salivary gland germ in adult mice. The bioengineered submandibular gland, which was transplanted using an inter-epithelial tissue-connecting plastic method, produced saliva in response to the administration of gustatory stimulation by citrate, protected against oral bacterial infection and restored swallowing in a mouse model of a salivary gland defect. Thus, this study provides a proof-of-concept for bioengineered salivary gland regeneration as a potential treatment of xerostomia. Further studies on the identification of stem cells as a source for the reconstitution of bioengineered salivary gland germs are warranted.
Caption: Bioengineered Salivary Gland (red; myoepithelium, green; nerve fibers) Copyright : Tsuji et al.
- Miho Ogawa, Masamitsu Oshima, Aya Imamura, Yurie Sekine, Kentaro Ishida, Kentaro Yamashita, Kei Nakajima, Masatoshi Hirayama, Tetsuhiko Tachikawa, Takashi Tsuji. Functional salivary gland regeneration by transplantation of a bioengineered organ germ. Nature Communications, 2013; 4 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3498
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