Lab on a Chip: Salivary Diagnostics
Since many of the substances that can be analyzed in blood can also be detected and analyzed using salvia, the Director of the NIDCR says there are many instances where using salvia as the diagnostic medium of choice would make sense.
Jackson: Most people are familiar with the concept of going to a doctor and having blood drawn to study various markers, such as cholesterol or the level of sugar in their blood. But researchers have found that many of the substances that can be analyzed in blood can also be detected and analyzed using salvia. Speaking at a lecture in the 2005 Medicine for the Public lecture series, Dr. Lawrence Tabak, director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, says there are many instances where using salvia as the diagnostic medium of choice would make sense.
Tabak: So for example, if you have individuals who are very infirmed, if you have a need to do collection within the community, one day with appropriate tests if people wanted to monitor themselves in their own home — it might be more reasonable to use salvia rather than blood in those cases. What we are trying to do is we're trying to come to a day where we would have small devices that would be inserted in the mouth that will allow for a continuous surveillance of different markers of health and disease. So that rather than waiting to go to a physician or a dentist for a particular test — you would in fact have continuous feedback — a sort of a health surveillance if you will. Bioengineers are working very hard with the oral biologists and are coming up with devices that are smaller and smaller. So I think that this small lab on a chip inserted in the mouth is not that far off — certainly within the next decade.
Jackson: Salivary diagnostics could have benefits far beyond medicine and dentistry as well. Law enforcement agencies could employ saliva tests in the field to determine rapidly whether a person is intoxicated or has recently used illegal drugs. These tests may also be beneficial in determining exposures to environmental, occupational, and biological substances. This is Calvin Jackson, the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Calvin Jackson
Sound Bite: Dr. Lawrence Tabak
Topic: Medical Testing