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Updated 9:30 AM April 9, 2007




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Dental device screens in minutes, not hours

A portable saliva test device developed by a School of Dentistry professor could tell patients in minutes if they have periodontal disease, a hefty improvement over current methods which require hours of analysis at an offsite lab.

The saliva test device was developed jointly by Dr. William Giannobile, director of the Michigan Center for Oral Health Research (MCOHR), and Dr. Anup Singh, Sandia National Laboratories. Testing with the kit has progressed to the point where a dentist would need only a drop of saliva from a patient and less than 10 minutes to analyze the sample to determine if the patient has periodontal disease.

Giannobile says in recent months MCOHR has been conducting tests that are adaptable to using microfluidic technology. "Using a miniaturized lab-on-a-chip approach, we have been able to separate and analyze proteins quickly, typically within minutes of sample separation," he says.

The saliva test kit measures a tissue destructive enzyme, matrix metalloptoteinase-8, a molecule released from cells that tend to migrate to periodontal lesions.

"This method could one day be used to screen large patient populations which could have major implications for oral health," Giannobile says.

Established in 2003, MCOHR takes discoveries from research laboratories and attempts to find ways to use them to benefit oral health care professionals and their patients. From late 2005-06, 130 patients were tested at MCOHR clinics in northeast Ann Arbor.

Collaborating with Giannobile are Mark Burns, professor in the College of Engineering, and Dr. Christoph Ramseier and Janet Kinney, both MCOHR research fellows.

The National Institutes of Health provided funding for the test studies. The lab-on-a-chip technology was developed and manufactured by Sandia National Laboratories, which has major research and developmental interests in national security, energy and environmental technologies.

The results of an analytical test appeared in the March 27 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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