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Tubarial Salivary Glands

Tubarial Salivary Glands

Context:

Scientists at the Netherlands Cancer Institute have identified a set of salivary glands deep in the upper part of the throat and have named them “tubarial salivary glands”.

Details:

  • The researchers confirmed the presence of the glands after examining at least 100 patients.
  • The discovery may be important for cancer treatment. So far, nasopharynx region (behind the nose) was not thought to host anything but microscopic, diffuse, salivary glands.
  • Doctors using radiotherapy for treating cancers in the head and neck try to avoid the main salivary glands as damaging them could make eating, speaking, or swallowing difficult for patients.
    • However, in this case, the newly discovered glands were getting hit by radiation as doctors were not aware of their existence in the human body.
    • Thus, the new discovery may result in fewer side effects for cancer patients.

Tubarial salivary glands:

  • These glands are about 1.5 inches in length on average and are located over a piece of cartilage called the torus tubarius.
  • The new organ was discovered while scientists were studying prostate cancer cells using PSMA PET-CT technology. 
  • The glands lubricate and moisten the upper throat behind the nose and mouth.
    • Until now, there were three known large salivary glands in humans: one under the tongue, one under the jaw, and one at the back of the jaw, behind the cheek.
  • Beyond those, perhaps a thousand microscopic salivary glands are scattered throughout the mucosal tissue of the throat and mouth. 

PSMA PET-CT technology:

  • It is a combination of CT scans and positron emission tomography (PET) which is good in detecting salivary gland tissues.
  • In this technique, a radioactive “tracer” is injected into the patient that binds to the protein PSMA, which is elevated in prostate cancer cells.

Salivary Glands:

  • The salivary glands in mammals are exocrine glands that produce saliva through a system of ducts.
  • Humans have three paired major salivary glands (parotid, submandibular, and sublingual) as well as hundreds of minor salivary glands.
  • Salivary glands can be classified as serous, mucous, or seromucous (mixed).
    • In serous secretions, the main type of protein secreted is alpha-amylase, an enzyme that breaks down starch into maltose and glucose,
    • In mucous secretions, the main protein secreted is mucin, which acts as a lubricant.

Source: Indian Express