Gene Therapy in the Salivary Gland


The salivary glands play an essential role in maintaining the health of the oral cavity, and degradation of the quality or quantity of saliva can have devastating effects upon the oral mucosa, the dentition, and quality of life.  Many conditions lead to objective hyposalivation and subjective xerostomia, including advanced age, medication use, Sjogren’s syndrome and radiotherapy.  In the aggregate, tens of millions of Americans suffer from due to salivary gland dysfunction due to these conditions.  Because of these devastating and wide-ranging morbidities, exacerbated by a paucity of conventional therapies, gene therapy has been studied as a potential breakthrough for xerostomia.  Recently, two decades of research in this area culminated in a successful Phase I human clinical trial for radiation-induced xerostomia.   This presentation will overview this scientific paradigm, focusing on the interdependency of clinical and laboratory expertise, and detail the technical hurdles that must still be overcome before this therapeutic strategy can be widely adopted in dental clinics.