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Permanent damage to the salivary glands and resulting hyposalivation and xerostomia has a substantial impact on patient health, quality of life and healthcare costs. At present patients rely on lifelong treatments that alleviate the symptoms but currently, no long-term restorative solutions exist. Recent advances in adult stem cell enrichment and transplantation, bioengineering and gene transfer have proved successful in rescuing salivary gland function in a number of animal models that reflect human diseases and that result in hyposalivation and xerostomia. By overcoming the limitations of stem cell transplants and better understanding the mechanisms of cellular plasticity in the adult salivary gland, such studies provide encouraging evidence that a regenerative strategy for patients will be available in the near future.
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