BACKGROUND: Over the past 10 years, the use of saliva as a diagnostic fluid has gained attention and has become a translational research success story. Some of the current nanotechnologies have been demonstrated to have the analytical sensitivity required for the use of saliva as a diagnostic medium to detect and predict disease progression. However, these technologies have not yet been integrated into current clinical practice and work flow.
CONTENT: As a diagnostic fluid, saliva offers advantages over serum because it can be collected noninvasively by individuals with modest training, and it offers a cost-effective approach for the screening of large populations. Gland-specific saliva can also be used for diagnosis of pathology specific to one of the major salivary glands. There is minimal risk of contracting infections during saliva collection, and saliva can be used in clinically challenging situations, such as obtaining samples from children or handicapped or anxious patients, in whom blood sampling could be a difficult act to perform. In this review we highlight the production of and secretion of saliva, the salivary proteome, transportation of biomolecules from blood capillaries to salivary glands, and the diagnostic potential of saliva for use in detection of cardiovascular disease and oral and breast cancers. We also highlight the barriers to application of saliva testing and its advancement in clinical settings.
SUMMARY: Saliva has the potential to become a first-line diagnostic sample of choice owing to the advancements in detection technologies coupled with combinations of biomolecules with clinical relevance.
- Received for publication July 28, 2010.
- Accepted for publication January 21, 2011.
- © 2011 The American Association for Clinical Chemistry