Radiotherapy of head and neck cancers often results in collateral damage to adjacent salivary glands associated with clinically significant hyposalivation and xerostomia. Due to the reduced capacity of salivary glands to regenerate, hyposalivation is treated by substitution with artificial saliva, rather than through functional restoration of the glands. During embryogenesis, the ectodysplasin/ectodysplasin receptor (EDA/EDAR) signaling pathway is a critical element in the development and growth of salivary glands. We have assessed the effects of pharmacological activation of this pathway in a mouse model of radiation-induced salivary gland dysfunction. We report that post-irradiation administration of an EDAR-agonist monoclonal antibody (mAbEDAR1) normalizes function of radiation damaged adult salivary glands as determined by stimulated salivary flow rates. In addition, salivary gland structure and homeostasis is restored to pre-irradiation levels. These results suggest that transient activation of pathways involved in salivary gland development could facilitate regeneration and restoration of function following damage.
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