A simple saliva sample could one day replace blood tests, dramatically changing the way type 1 diabetes is treated in children.
The most comprehensive study of its kind to date found that proteins in the saliva reflect high blood sugar in young patients with type 1 diabetes long before the appearance of symptoms.
The prick-less test has the potential to help better predict and prevent the disease.
“Blood collection through repeated sampling causes discomfort and hinders patients’ compliance,” explains study co-author Professor Heleni Vastardis of NKU Athens School of Dentistry in a press release. “Easy, simple, painless, non-invasive saliva collection is the most attractive diagnostic medium when examining children.”
Previous research has shown that these proteins, called the “salivary proteome,” are different between healthy people and those with diabetes.
Vastardis finds great potential in this finding. “Saliva is considered a mirror of the body’s health and disease and a possible game changer in healthcare and clinical practice,” she says.
Their study analyzed saliva samples from young type 1 diabetics using a very specific technique to identify and quantify more than 2,000 different proteins. They found that young type 1 diabetics with good blood sugar control had similar saliva protein profiles to non-diabetics.
However, those children with poorly controlled type 1 diabetes showed a very different saliva protein profile.
The differences, according to the release, were in proteins known to have key roles in inflammation, clotting and blood vessel function — all things that underly the major complications of diabetes.
Vastardis believes, while more studies are needed, protein analysis of the saliva could one day be used in the clinic.