The generation of two types of secretory glands and their successful transplantation into mice is reported in two papers published in Nature Communications this week. The work suggests that bioengineered organ replacement therapy could one day become a feasible strategy to restore lost salivary or lacrimal (tear) gland function.
Salivary and lacrimal gland dysfunction are associated with various diseases, reduce quality of life and can cause additional health problems. Takahashi Tsuji and colleagues create lacrimal and salivary gland precursors - so-called organ germs - in a dish by mimicking cellular interactions during embryonic development. They go on to show that, after transplantation into mice, these organ germs successfully connect to the nervous system and ducts of the host. The bioengineered glands respond to various chemical stimuli by secreting fluid and restore a normal oral and ocular environment.
As the glands were transplanted into mice after excision of a healthy gland, future work is required to investigate whether this strategy would also allow the replacement of dysfunctional glands.