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Oral physiology and cancer biology

Salivary gland biology and development & oral cancer biology.

Salivary gland

Growth of submandibular salivary gland in ex vivo organ culture (from mouse). Photo: UiO

About the group

Our group has focus on salivary gland physiology and pathophysiology.  In addition, we work on development of cancer in the oral cavity, and the role of exosomes in this process.

Our main research objectives are to study salivary gland function during organ development, in healthy tissue and in disease, the latter with a focus on the autoimmune disorder Sjögren´s syndrome.  We are interested in exploring saliva as a diagnostic tool in the search for disease biomarkers.  Additionally, we study the role of exosomes and aquaporins during cancer Development.


Role of aquaporins in salivary gland development

In this project we study the role of water channels (aquaporins) during salivary gland development in mice.  We determine morphogenesis, gland growth and cell function in an ex vivo culture model.  We wish to expand the knowledge about the development of central cell physiological processes in salivary epithelium. This is important for understanding disease states where the normal development and function of these are inhibited. In addition, an enhanced understanding of water channel function in salivary epithelium will be useful for the development of therapeutic regimens for patients with reduced saliva secretion.

Role of extracellular vesicles in oral squamous cell carcinoma

The 5-year survival of oral cancer is very poor.  At present, it is around 50% and there is an increasing incidence worldwide, in particular among young people in Scandinavia/Northern Europe and USA, without the known risk factors such as smoking and drinking. Oral squamous cell carcinoma accounts for the majority of malignant tumors in the oral cavity.

Tumor progression is detrimental for the patient. In this process the tumor instruct the patient’s own cells to cooperate and not fight against it. Cancer cells can influence other cells and tissues surrounding them by the release of molecular signals into their environment. One of these environmental modifiers is extracellular vesicles, which are blebs of membrane that carry a cargo of signaling substances and genetic material. We hypothesize that oral cancer derived vesicles are of great importance for tumor aggressiveness. 

Role of aquaporins in oral squamous cell carcinoma

Here we study how aquaporins are affected during cancer cell growth, and how aquaporins may affect cell proliferation and migration.  We use both cancer cell lines and patient biologic material.


Institute of oral biology

Institute of clinical dentistry


  • Kathrine Skarstein, University of Bergen
  • Darlene Dartt, Harvard Medical School
  • Melinda Larsen, University at Albany
  • Reidun Øvstebø, Oslo University Hospital
  • Bernd Thiede, University of Oslo
Published Aug. 14, 2018 11:18 AM - Last modified Oct. 25, 2021 1:15 PM


Institute of Oral Biology
Domus Odontologica
Sognsvannsveien 10
0372 Oslo

Group leader