Spit tests may soon replace painful blood test pin pricks

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Washington, Mar 26 : Painful blood tests may soon be a thing of the past when it comes to testing for cancer, heart disease or diabetes, for they may be replaced by a simple spit test.

The spit test has come about thanks to a consortium of research teams who have identified the "complete" salivary proteome, a set of proteins in human ductal saliva secreted by the major salivary glands (parotid, submandibular (SM) and sublingual (SL)).

The consortium of research teams is from The Scripps Research Institute, University of Rochester, University of Southern California, The University of California at San Francisco and UC Los Angeles.

James E. Melvin, D.D.S., Ph.D., director of the Center for Oral Biology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and an author on the paper, said that past studies had established that salivary proteins heal the mouth, amplify the voice, develop the taste buds and kill bacteria and viruses.

The new study, he said has shown that salivary proteins may represent new tools for tracking disease throughout the body-tools that are potentially easier to monitor in saliva than in blood.

To construct a credible protein list for saliva, the teams used competing techniques both to capture the greatest number of protein candidates for the list and to lend extra credibility to those found using different methodologies.

Saliva was collected from 23 adults of several races and both sexes.

Using mass spectrometry techniques, three teams at the five institutions identified 1,166 proteins in parotid and submandibular/sublingual saliva.

The results indicated that more than a third of saliva proteins were found in the blood proteome, as well. In addition, a number of the salivary proteins were found to match proteins with known roles in Alzheimer's, Huntington's and Parkinson's diseases; breast, colorectal and pancreatic cancer; and type 1 and 2 diabetes.

Specifically, a majority of the proteins were found to be part of signaling pathways, which is central to the body's response to system-wide diseases.

Mireya Gonzalez Begne, D.D.S., Ph.D., research assistant professor of Dentistry in the Center for Oral Biology at the Medical Center, said: "Researchers have already shown that saliva proteins can be used to detect oral cancer and HIV infection. We think this list will soon expand to include leading causes of death like cancer and heart disease, which, if caught early, are much more likely to be successfully treated."

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