Saliva and Diagnosis

Dentistry Today


Scientists at UCLA’s School of Dentistry are investigating the possibility of diagnosing high-impact diseases through saliva. David T. Wong, DMD, DMSc, associate dean of research, professor at the school, and co-director of the head and neck oncology research program at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, described the latest in saliva diagnostic research to attendees at the ADA’s National Media Conference, held in New York City on June 8, 2005.

“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. Wong. 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.

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.

Dr. Wong, et al have shown that these biosensors can measure elevated levels of 4 distinct cancer-associated RNA molecules in saliva, and distinguish within 91% 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 osteoporosis.

(Source: ADA, June 8, 2005)