Congratulations to Dr. Simon Tran and his team of researchers for their recent grant success. Tran along with co-investigators Dr. Jan Seuntjens and Dr. Jiangping Wu received the $902 700 Project Grant award from the CIHR for their project entitled “The use of autologous cell extracts to repair injured salivary glands”.
The significance and impact of this research is that there are 4,000 new cases of head and neck cancer diagnosed each year in Canada. Worldwide, this amounts to over 500,000 new cases yearly. Therapeutic irradiation is a key component of therapy for most of these cancer patients. Salivary glands, particularly the acinar cells, in the ionizing radiation field suffer severe damage, leading to permanent dry mouth (xerostomia). These patients suffer greatly due to discomfort in chewing and swallowing, tooth decay, sore throat, taste loss, and oral infections. While these patients can constantly sip water to reduce their discomfort a little, there are no curative treatments to date. The aim of Tran’s research is to offer these patients a practical and effective cure. This research involves the use of a human bone marrow cell extract (BMCE) which is collected by freezing and thawing the patient's own bone marrow cells, thereby releasing their intracellular contents including molecular factors such as proteins and growth factors. Advantages of cell extract therapy includes reduced risk of immune rejection and thromboembolic complication, ease of obtaining cell extracts, long-term storage, and low cost of production. As human BMCE therapy is a novel technique, the team would like to perform further testing in the following areas:
#1) assessing its safety to repair salivary glands damaged by irradiation and reducing its cytotoxicity, and
#2) substantially simplifying its mixture of molecules while enhancing its efficacy and biological activity.
This research will be tested on human salivary biopsies and in mouse models with irradiated salivary glands. The potential impact of regenerating lost salivary tissues is enormous. The hope is that through this research, Tran and his team will be able to provide millions of patients worldwide with a curative therapy using a cell extract drawn from their own tissues to restore normal functions to their impaired salivary glands.
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