Understanding salivary gland function

“Understanding Salivary Gland Function” is a strategic project aiming at a deeper understanding of salivary gland function with initial emphasis on Sjögren’s syndrome (SS).

Profilbilde av professor Janicke Liaaen Jensen
Project Leader, Professor Janicke Liaaen Jensen: j.c.l.jensen@odont.uio.no

Main goals of the research project

  • To improve the situation for all groups of patients suffering from dry mouth symptoms and problems, through increased clinical awareness, accurate diagnosis, and better treatment aimed at improving salivary secretion and associated mucous membrane changes and infections.
  • To elucidate biomarkers for SS using advanced investigations of tears and saliva from SS patients.


SS is an autoimmune connective tissue disorder that mainly affects women from approximately 50 years of age. SS involves dry mouth, dryness of the eyes, fatigue, pain in muscles and joints, significantly impaired quality of life and increased morbidity. The disease is the subject of great attention among clinicians and researchers; nevertheless, the cause is unknown.

It is of significant interest to the individual patient and for the patient group as a whole to achieve improved diagnostics and, thus, possible therapies.

However, decreased salivation and dry mouth are common complaints in the population, and may be caused by drug side effects, irradiation against salivary glands, or diseases in salivary glands. The frequency of dry mouth increases with age, mainly due to greater morbidity and drug use in the elderly population.

Very low salivary secretion can impair oral health in the form of dental decay and wear, fungal infections, damage to the mucous membranes, difficulties with speaking and swallowing, and reduced general quality of life.

The Dry Mouth Clinic

The establishment of the Dry Mouth Clinic is an essential element of the overall project. During the fall of 2015, the Dry Mouth Clinic was established at the Institute of Clinical Dentistry through collaboration between resource persons from the departments of surgery, conservative dentistry and gerodontology.

From left: Bente Brokstad Herlofson, Lene Hystad Hove, Morten Rykke, Janicke Liaaen Jensen and Preet Bano Singh. Front from left: Alix Young Vik and Shermin Rusthen.

Patients and external collaborators

The project requires access to patients with a well-established SS diagnosis and high competence in the field of dry eyes. SS patients were identified in the Norwegian Systemic Connective Tissue Disease and Vasculitis Register (NOSVAR), the National Hospital, led by Øyvind Palm and re-examined before referral.

The Dry Eye Clinic, led by Tor Paaske Utheim, is the Nordic region's only special clinic dedicated to diagnosis and treatment of dry eyes, and performs advanced examinations of eyes and tears using state-of-the-art technology. Furthermore, in collaboration with both Oslo University Hospital and Department of Biosciences, saliva and tears were closely analysed by size exclusion chromotography and proteomics in order to identify biomarkers for SS that later can be used in diagnosis and therapy.

Project progress

34 well-characterized SS patients and 32 healthy controls were recruited and examined at the Dry Mouth Clinic between late August and June 2016. They were all subjected to questionnaires on general and oral quality of life, as well as xerostomia. Patient history data were collected, the oral mucosa and teeth were closely examined, saliva was collected, and tests on smell and taste were performed. All were also examined at the Dry Eye Clinic. A manuscript on taste and smell function has been submitted to Eur J Oral Sci, and another on clinical findings in the Dry Mouth and Dry Eye Clinics will be submitted to J Dent. A manuscript on identification of biomarkers for SS from saliva and tears by size separation and proteomics is under review in Arthritis Res & Ther.

Studies on SS will continue, but with time the project will include all patients with dry mouth and/or dry eyes, thus including patients with cancer, multimorbidity and multipharmacy, and the elderly. New treatment options will be eplored.

Future aspects

Studies on SS will continue, but with time the project will include all patients with dry mouth and/or dry eyes, thus including patients with cancer, multimorbidity and multipharmacy, and the elderly. New treatment options will be explored, i.e. nanoparticles in collaboration with professor Marianne Hiorth, School of Pharmacy.

Contact information

Project leader Janicke Liaaen Jensen: jljensen@odont.uio.no


Tags: salivary gland, saliva, Sjögren's syndrome
Published Jan. 11, 2017 10:28 AM - Last modified Jan. 11, 2017 10:29 AM