Newswise — Saliva or “spit” cleanses the mouth, helps fight tooth decay and
for some scientists at UCLA's School of Dentistry, serves as a potential diagnostic
tool to paint an insightful view of the body's health.
“Over the next several years, we are looking at
the possibility of diagnosing high-impact diseases
through saliva,” said David T. Wong, DMD, DMSc, associate
dean of research and professor at UCLA's School of
Dentistry and co-director of the head and neck oncology
research program at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive
Dr. Wong, who also leads UCLA's Dental Research
Institute, described the latest in saliva diagnostic
research to attendees at the American Dental Association's
National Media Conference, held here today.
“We have developed highly specific, nanotechnology-based
biosensors (ultra tiny machines that read the simplest
cell structure), which will permit the detection
of disease-bearing biomarkers in saliva,” said Dr.
Scientists have long recognized that saliva contains
the full complement of proteins, hormones, antibodies
and other molecular substances frequently measured
in standard blood tests to monitor health and disease,
Noninvasive diagnostic testing: Just spit instead
of a needle prick
Saliva is easy to collect and poses none of the risks, fears or invasiveness
of blood tests, allowing patients needing certain diagnostic tests to avoid
a needle prick.
Dr. Wong said that in the future, dental offices
might be equipped with real-time detectors to diagnose
diseases from saliva.
Already Dr. Wong and his UCLA colleagues have shown
that these biosensors can measure elevated levels
of four distinct cancer-associated RNA molecules
in saliva and distinguish within 91 percent accuracy
between healthy people and those diagnosed with oral
squamous cell carcinoma.
According to Dr. Wong, ongoing investigations into
saliva diagnostics are broadening to include extending
research into biomarkers for other diseases. In the
near future, he expects the use of saliva to diagnose
high-impact diseases such as breast, ovarian and
pancreatic cancers, Alzheimer's, AIDS, diabetes and
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