Spit for Good Health

Someday, doctors may skip jabbing you with a needle for blood tests and just ask you to spit. Doctors at UCLA’s School of Dentistry are looking into ways to diagnose disease using saliva.

The new, non-invasive testing procedure is being developed by scientists at UCLA’s Dental Research Institute. David T. Wong, D.M.D., says, “Over the next several years, we are looking at the possibility of diagnosing high-impact diseases through saliva.” He presented his findings this week at the American Dental Association’s National Media Conference in New York.

Saliva contains all the proteins, hormones and antibodies that can be found in blood. Dr. Wong and his colleagues are developing nanotechnology-based biosensors to test for the chemical markers of diseases in saliva.

Preliminary tests have shown the biosensors can measure elevated levels of four cancer-associated RNA molecules in saliva. Researchers have also found the saliva biosensors can distinguish within 91-percent accuracy between healthy people and those diagnosed with oral squamous cell carcinoma.

In the near future, patients could expect fewer needle sticks when they visit their doctor. Dr. Wong says he expects to use saliva to diagnose diseases like breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancer, Alzheimer’s, AIDS, diabetes and osteoporosis.

SOURCE: Presented at the American Dental Association’s National Media Conference in New York, June 8, 2005

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