Mariia Mielkozorova - 2024 Research Day

Localization and quantification of stem cells in salivary glands of different age and sex groups

Mariia Mielkozorova, Lander Manrique, Ola M Maria, Sangeeth Pillai, Akshaya Upadhyay, Simon D Tran

Background: Salivary glands are susceptible to various diseases, which can significantly reduce the quality of life and have a huge impact on common processes people execute without noticing. Such unconscious functions as swallowing, mastication and speech become discomforting, causing pain and lead to further serious complications. Salivary glands, like all other tissues, contain stem cells, which play a crucial role in maintaining tissue homeostasis, repair and regeneration, such properties reflect their therapeutic potentials. While some stem cell therapies have already been established as effective treatments, others are still in progress. The optimum stem cells need to be identified and characterized in each tissue to be employed for a specific therapeutic purpose. The interest to identify and characterize the salivary stem cells has been in progress.

Objectives: The objective of this study was to improve the current methods of detection and quantification of stem cells in salivary glands of different sex and age groups.

Methodology: For the purpose of the project, we have performed immunofluorescence staining on 14 patients. Specific stem cell and salivary gland markers were used for cell detection. Images were obtained in 4 different regions of each gland. Furthermore, images were processed with custom MATLAB based code. The application was created for image correction, merging and cell counting.
Afterwards, results were analyzed and compared using the student’s T-test.

Results: As we obtained preliminary results, we have proved the presence of stem cells in submandibular salivary glands from processed 392 images. The semi-quantification of stem cells ratio to salivary cells was performed using a “smart” application for image processing. Our application has proven to be an effective tool for future research, shortening the image processing time with a limited error of 2% and with an incorporated option to manually modify cell counting. The numbers we have received show that there is no direct visible correlation between the patient’s age and the amount of stem cells in healthy patients. Further results are in progress in regard to future planned work with irradiated salivary glands. Our findings will be an essential tool that might help to explain the reasons
for a slow regeneration in radiotherapy treated salivary tissues.

Conclusion: This project might help to improve the current ways of image processing and cell counting. In addition, the semi-quantification of salivary stem cells might help us to better understand the
mechanisms of stem cells differentiation and function in different sex and age groups, and in the future, to compare healthy to irradiated salivary tissues and to advance stem cell therapies

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