A Dentist’s Thoughts on Salivary Diagnostics

            Graphic describing the process for DNA from Saliva to Blood

Salivary diagnostics may be a cheaper, faster and better way to diagnose certain diseases. Already effective in oral cancer and Sjogren’s syndrome, researchers are looking to expand the potential of using saliva.

Blood tests and biopsies are invasive, expensive, and time-consuming to collect and process. As seen above, salivary diagnostics can save up to 5300 hours of time and can be done at home. This allows communities and countries that don’t have access to necessary medical supplies to perform these tests.

What is Salivary Diagnostics?

Human saliva, which consists of proteins and trace amounts of blood serum, is a secretion from glands into the mouth to help with digestion. Salivary diagnostics is using this secretion, saliva, to diagnose and treat a number of diseases and monitor hormone levels in an individual. The NIH and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) are largely funding research efforts to find all the diseases that can be diagnosed with less invasive saliva samples.

History of Salivary Diagnostics

Diagnoses via saliva is not a new concept. The practice dates back to the early 1990’s when Dr. Michael and Dr. Kirk began research into using saliva to diagnose rheumatism and gout. Researchers have come a long way from the original work of Kirk and Michael. Today, they have identified over 1166 proteins in human saliva.

The other key applications include: 1) developing the diagnostic “alphabets” for saliva, and 2) the design and development of new biosensor technologies capable of fast and effective saliva-based testing for use in clinical settings.

Relation to Genomics/Proteomics

All in all, the effort to use salivary diagnostics is converging with modern technology. This process allows researchers to sequence and study the human proteome and genome. Using sequencing and analysis, doctors will be able to sequence and study the salivary proteome to gain insights into oral and systemic diseases.

When will spitting into the cup become a standard diagnostic tool?

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