Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Scoop on Spit

The November issue of Science News, which has an attention grabbing tongue and saliva image with the words DROOL DIAGNOSES underneath, contains an engrossing article entitled A Spitting Image Of Health. Here's an excerpt:

Saliva — the frothy fluid that helps clean the mouth, digest food and fight tooth decay — carries many of the same proteins and other molecules found in blood and urine. Scientists have long been interested in mining a person’s mix of these compounds for clues to diagnosing diseases. Three years ago, these efforts got a boost when researchers completed a preliminary master list of the proteins found in spit — 1,166 of them. 
Since then, scientists have nearly doubled the length of the protein list, while identifying changes in the salivary protein profile that are linked to disease. Other labs are delving into genetic material found in human saliva, looking for variations in gene activity that might signal disease risk.
I've posted in the past regarding the potential for autoimmune diagnoses using proteins found in saliva. It's exciting to see that the research continues and could potentially benefit an enormous population:

Digging in: That frothy fluid in your mouth holds all kinds of clues to the body’s happenings.
Drug use: Saliva can reveal drug use, whether for therapy or recreation.
Hormones: Commercial test kits gauge estrogen, testosterone and cortisol levels from saliva.
HIV: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a test that looks in oral fluid for antibodies known to be present in people with HIV infections.
Age: A recent study suggests that genetic clues in spit can pinpoint age to within five years.
Cancer: Messenger RNA signatures for breast and pancreatic cancer have turned up in saliva.
Heart disease: The protein troponin T in spit may pinpoint people having heart attacks.

Head over there. It's a great read.

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