Salivary glands are essential in maintaining oral cavity homeostasis. This tissue can become impaired by chemotherapy/radiotherapy given to head and neck cancer patients, as well as systemic diseases. Once this gland is damaged, it has limited ability to regenerate, and so the need for potential biodegradable/biocompatible scaffolds to aid in the growth and repair is of great interest. This soft tissue is made up of multiple cell populations that contribute to the function of the gland. Creating an environment that can recapitulate the one seen in vivo will promote the functionality of the engineered tissue. This research aims to investigate: (1) cell-substrate interactions with salivary gland epithelial cells and nanofiber scaffolds, (2) cell-cell interactions via incorporation of a second native cell population to further enhance epithelial differentiation, mimicking the in vivo microenvironment and (3) the development of engineering a three-dimensional scaffold that will better facilitate the two interactions described above. The hypothesis is that sponge scaffolds that mimic the mechanical properties and architecture of the tissue observed in vivo will provide a platform for future implantation and regeneration strategies. Bio-mimetically engineered scaffold systems for the growth of organs, such as the one described here, yield novel tools for studying organ development in applications for regenerative medicine.
A Dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Nanoscale Engineering at The Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, SUNY Polytechnic Institute.