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Updated 10:00 AM March 14, 2005




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  School of Dentistry
Saliva test may spot gum and heart disease

A self-contained saliva test kit developed by a School of Dentistry professor in collaboration with government agencies and the private sector is undergoing limited preliminary testing at two U-M sites.

"For years, oral health care professionals have talked about a close connection between a person's saliva and his or her bloodstream," says Dr. William Giannobile, a professor of dentistry and associate professor of biomedical engineering who developed the test kit. "There are a significant number of potential applications for this device because of its ease of use and its portability."

The hand-held, battery-powered rapid-test kit is being used to test saliva samples from several dozen patients to determine if they have periodontal or cardiovascular disease biomarkers. Once marketed, the kit will allow dentists to test patients in their offices and learn, in 15 minutes or less, if their patients have those diseases.

One day, the kit also may be used by federal, state or local government agencies and corporations to detect biological toxins.

Giannobile, who also is director of the Michigan Center for Oral Health Research (MCOHR), says the kit has been used to analyze saliva samples from nearly 30 individuals who have participated in a pilot study that began in December at the School of Dentistry. Before the end of this year, saliva samples will be collected from another 100 individuals at MCOHR clinics in northeast Ann Arbor.

"The tests we are now conducting using this kit may determine just how much of a link there is between a person's saliva and their blood, and how it may be affecting their overall health," Giannobile says.

The preliminary testing now underway will help determine which biological markers indicate the presence of periodontal disease and osteoporosis as well as detect the presence of C-reactive protein, a cardiovascular disease marker.

It may be several years before the kit is available for widespread use. The kits, called The Microchem Lab™, are manufactured by Sandia National Laboratories.

"After the last of the patients are tested in December, we will analyze the results and conduct follow-up examinations of all 130 patients for a year to see if there is a correlation between their oral health and the test results," Giannobile says.

Charles Hasselbrink and Mark Burns, both with the Department of Chemical Engineering, collaborated with Giannobile. The National Institutes of Health is funding the test studies.

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