Scientists discover new pair of salivary glands in human body

Scientists discover new pair of salivary glands in human body

Researchers from the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam, have recently identified what seems to be a previously overlooked set of salivary glands in the upper part of the throat. The discovery suggests the first set of new salivary glands in about 300 years.

The clinically relevant discovery could be helpful for patients who are undergoing radiation therapy for head and neck cancers wrote the researchers in the study published in the open access journal, Radiotherapy and Oncology.

Sparing the new glands in radiotherapy could help reduce the difficulty in salivation and swallowing that patients of head and neck cancer experience after radiation therapy,said the researchers.

The new glands have been labelled as tubarial salivary glands as they are situated over a piece of cartilage called the torus tuberous. The glands are about 1.5 inches on average and lie in the nasopharyngeal region, behind the nose and above the throat. The discovery was accidental since the researchers were studying prostate cancer.

The salivary gland system, known till now, is a three paired major glands and roughly 1,000 minor glands spread throughout the aerodigestive tract (the respiratory tract and the upper part of the digestive tract, including the lips, mouth, tongue, nose, throat, vocal cords, and part of the oesophagus and windpipe) submucosa (the layer that supports the mucosa membrane).
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Head and neck cancers are a leading contributor to India’s cancer burden, with a large majority comprising cancer of the oral cavity, followed by that of the pharynx (part of the throat behind the mouth and nasal cavity), according to the Indian Council of Medical Research’s cancer registry.

This extra pair that has been discovered has the potential to mitigate the side effects as during radiotherapy, experts said.