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Saliva Test Could Monitor Type 2 Diabetes

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists say they are on the verge of developing a saliva test for monitoring type 2 diabetes, which might someday replace invasive blood tests.

For the first time, researchers from Oregon and India have identified proteins in saliva that appear more frequently in people with diabetes than in non-diabetics. Using these proteins, they are working to develop a test to monitor and perhaps diagnose the condition.

However, Dr. Umesh Masharani, an associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, doesn't think this approach is going to replace current blood tests any time soon.

"I think this is an interesting and novel approach," Masharani said. "I do not think this approach will be used in the diagnosis or treatment of diabetes any time in the near future. It is interesting, I think, for research studies in diabetes."

The report was published in the Jan. 2 issue of the Journal of Proteome Research.

For the study, Paturi V. Rao, from the departments of Endocrinology and Metabolism and Medicine at Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences University in Hyderabad, India, and colleagues analyzed saliva samples from people with and without type 2 diabetes. Their goal was to find proteins associated with the blood sugar disease.

The researchers found 65 proteins that occurred twice as frequently in the people with diabetes than in those without the condition.

Using these proteins, Rao's team hopes to develop a noninvasive test for diabetes screening, detection and monitoring.

Rao's group thinks the pain involved with current diabetes monitoring causes many diabetics to be lax in monitoring their condition. A noninvasive test could make it easier and less painful for patients to keep track of their blood sugar levels.

"As recent studies have shown that early and multi-factorial intervention in diabetes prevents cardiovascular complications and mortality, advances in understanding molecular aspects of preclinical diabetes will further facilitate accurate diagnosis and early intervention," the authors wrote.

Diabetes expert Dr. Charles F. Burant, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan, isn't convinced that a test using proteins in saliva is needed.

"I think it has minimal clinical impact," Burant said. "To be a valid biomarker, a test has to be sensitive and specific. We don't know the value of either for any of the proteins at the present time."

The biggest question is why this is needed, Burant noted. "Diabetes and prediabetes have a valid biomarker -- glucose -- that is the measure of the disease state. Thus, this is interesting biochemistry and raises questions why these changes occur, but the clinical utility is unclear."

More information

For more about type 2 diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association.

SOURCES: Umesh Masharani, M.D., associate clinical professor, medicine, University of California, San Francisco; Charles F. Burant, M.D., Ph.D., professor, internal medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Jan. 2, 2009, Journal of Proteome Research

Last Updated: Jan. 20, 2009

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