Sit ‘n Spit: NIH spearheads salivary diagnostics research

The National Institutes of Health is partnering research on new saliva tests offering multiple and rapid analysis of salivary secretions for use at home and in the dentist’s office, calling for “more sensitive assays” useful in fighting terrorism or war. Oral fluids recently have shown “great diagnostic potential” in a variety of clinical situations, for detection of HIV and monitoring drug use (see the Spectrum Series report on saliva). But progress on this front hasn’t always kept pace with expectations. Now, says the NIH, the technology is ripe and the time at hand for simultaneous multi-analyte detection of markers for disease and exposure to environmental, occupational or abusive substances including agents dispersed by bioterrorists.From the National Institutes of Health:NIH spearheads salivary diagnostics research

Bethesda, Md.?The National Institutes of Health is partnering research on new saliva tests offering multiple and rapid analysis of salivary secretions for use at home and in the dentist’s office, calling for “more sensitive assays” useful in fighting terrorism or war.

Oral fluids recently have shown “great diagnostic potential” in a variety of clinical situations, for detection of HIV and monitoring drug use (see the Spectrum Series report on saliva). But progress on this front hasn’t always kept pace with expectations.
Now, says the NIH, the technology is ripe and the time at hand for simultaneous multi-analyte detection of markers for disease and exposure to environmental, occupational or abusive substances including agents dispersed by bioterrorists. Technological advances promise “to revolutionize the field of diagnostics as we now know it.

“Scientists predict that pocket-sized analyzers, or lab-on-a-chip, that can perform multiple operations in parallel in non-laboratory settings such as battlefields, airports, factories, hospitals, clinics or homes will be developed,” said the NIH research announcement. “Current technologies provide a basis for these kinds of tests/devices that will allow the simultaneous assessment of multiple analytes in health and disease and will provide clinicians with new prevention and therapeutic strategies.”

The announcement, a request for applications, encouraged applicants to partner with government, through cooperative agreements, in research aimed at developing new or advancing existing technologies for analyzing minute samples of saliva.

The NIH has announced the first projects funded under the RFA for “Development of Technologies for Saliva/Oral Fluid Based Diagnostics.”

Directing the initiative is the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, which announced award of seven cooperative agreements for multidisciplinary research on “novel technologies” using saliva as a diagnostic tool. The NIDCR is the only oral health research agency among the 27 institutes and centers comprising National Institutes of Health, the world’s leading biomedical research system.

Information about the awards, project scope and first meeting of an NIH salivary diagnostics group is posted at the NIDCR Web site.

“In his opening remarks, NIDCR Director Dr. Lawrence Tabak emphasized the rich opportunities that saliva provides for non-invasive assessment of a variety of oral and systemic diseases,” the Web statement says. “Technologies developed through this program may one day catalyze a shift in our current health system of disease detection to real time health surveillance.”

The focus will be on areas in which saliva-based diagnostics “can have a major impact” including periodontal disease, dental caries, oral and other cancers; autoimmune, cardiovascular and other systemic disease; monitoring for drug compliance, pharmacokinetics and pharmacogenomics, and identification of potentially lethal agents such as anthrax bacillus or chemical agents dispersed by bioterrorists.

The NIH invited applicants with expertise in technology development, chemistry, engineering, physics, biology, bioinformatics and clinical sciences.

The idea is to get the research into the public domain as quickly as possible and to encourage private-sector participation in potential commercialization of the products that might flow from research. The RFA encouraged but did not require technology dissemination plans and private sector participation in the proposed research.

The statement indicates broader NIH involvement in the project through co-investigation and representation from the National Human Genome Research Institute, National Cancer Institute and National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.


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