It’ll make you cry, or salivate. Takashi Tsuji at Tokyo University of Science in Japan, and colleagues have created tear and salivary glands from stem cells and successfully transplanted them into adult mice.
The technique could one day be used in humans to replace glands lost through age or illnesses such as autoimmune disease and head or neck cancer.
To create the glands, Tsuji’s team extracted two types of stem cells from a mouse embryo and grew them in a mix of chemical growth factors. The cells began mimicking the interactions that occur in embryos, developing into primitive glands, which were then transplanted into adult mice that lacked salivary or tear glands.
A month later, the glands had connected with the nervous system and delivery ducts. When the researchers stimulated the digestive tracts of the mice with salt, the bioengineered glands produced saliva. Similarly, cooling their eyes made the engineered glands produce tears, complete with the proteins and lipids usually found in teary secretions.
The same team has previously grown rodent teeth and hair using a similar technique.
Journal reference: Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3498 (1/10/2013)