The evolving definition of salivary gland stem cells

Cecilia Rocchi*, Lara Barazzuol, Rob P Coppes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
45 Downloads (Pure)


Dysfunction of the salivary gland and irreversible hyposalivation are the main side effects of radiotherapy treatment for head and neck cancer leading to a drastic decrease of the quality of life of the patients. Approaches aimed at regenerating damaged salivary glands have been proposed as means to provide long-term restoration of tissue function in the affected patients. In studies to elucidate salivary gland regenerative mechanisms, more and more evidence suggests that salivary gland stem/progenitor cell behavior, like many other adult tissues, does not follow that of the hard-wired professional stem cells of the hematopoietic system. In this review, we provide evidence showing that several cell types within the salivary gland epithelium can serve as stem/progenitor-like cells. While these cell populations seem to function mostly as lineage-restricted progenitors during homeostasis, we indicate that upon damage specific plasticity mechanisms might be activated to take part in regeneration of the tissue. In light of these insights, we provide an overview of how recent developments in the adult stem cell research field are changing our thinking of the definition of salivary gland stem cells and their potential plasticity upon damage. These new perspectives may have important implications on the development of new therapeutic approaches to rescue radiation-induced hyposalivation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Number of pages8
Journalnpj Regenerative Medicine
Issue number1
Early online date1-Feb-2021
Publication statusPublished - 1-Dec-2021

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