Introduction: During radiotherapy salivary glands of head and neck cancer patients are unavoidably co-irradiated, potentially resulting in life-long impairment. Recently we showed that transplantation of salisphere-derived c-Kit expressing cells can functionally regenerate irradiated salivary glands. This study aims to select a more potent subpopulation of c-Kit(+) cells, co-expressing stem cell markers and to investigate whether long-term tissue homeostasis is restored after stem cell transplantation.
Methods and results: Salisphere derived c-Kit(+) cells that co-expressed CD24 and/or CD49f markers, were intra-glandularly injected into 15 Gy irradiated submandibular glands of mice. Particularly, c-Kit(+)/CD24(+)/CD49f(+) cell transplanted mice improved saliva production (54.59 +/- 11.1%) versus the irradiated control group (21.5 +/- 8.7%). Increase in expression of cells with differentiated duct cell markers like, cytokeratins (CK8, 18,7 and 14) indicated functional recovery of this compartment. Moreover, ductal stem cell marker expression like c-Kit, CD133, CD24 and CD49f reappeared after transplantation indicating long-term functional maintenance potential of the gland. Furthermore, a normalization of vascularization as indicated by 0331 expression and reduction of fibrosis was observed, indicative of normalization of the microenvironment.
Conclusions: Our results show that stem cell transplantation not only rescues hypo-salivation, but also restores tissue homeostasis of the irradiated gland, necessary for long-term maintenance of adult tissue. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved. Radiotherapy and Oncology 108 (2013) 458-463