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First of Its Kind Technology Detects Glucose in Human Saliva

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 30 Nov 2023
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Image: Saliva could one day replace blood to monitor people’s health (Photo courtesy of 123RF)
Image: Saliva could one day replace blood to monitor people’s health (Photo courtesy of 123RF)

Blood tests are vital for assessing health, but they often involve uncomfortable procedures, including frequent finger pricks or blood draws by a phlebotomist. Saliva, which shares many biomarkers with blood, has been considered as an alternative for monitoring health indicators like glucose levels. Traditional analysis of saliva for small molecules often requires lab equipment. Now, a new device capable of detecting glucose and adenosine monophosphate (AMP) in saliva with high sensitivity could simplify home health monitoring and eliminate the discomfort of traditional methods.

At the Université de Sherbrooke in Québec, Canada, researchers have adapted electrochemical aptamer-based (E-AB) biosensors, previously used for testing blood samples, to work with saliva. These biosensors generate an electrochemical signal when a custom-designed DNA or RNA aptamer binds to a specific target molecule. Focusing on glucose and AMP—a biomarker linked to gum disease—the team modified existing DNA aptamers to enhance their sensitivity and mounted them on gold electrodes to create the E-AB biosensors. Saliva samples were gathered from participants and combined for testing. The innovative aspect of this approach lies in its simplicity: the biosensors can be directly immersed in saliva without any additional preparation or reagents, making it feasible for at-home patient use.

The researchers observed that their devices could deliver results in just 30 seconds, remained effective in pure saliva for up to three days, and maintained their sensitivity for a week with proper washing after each use. The glucose sensor demonstrated high specificity for its target, and both AMP and glucose sensors could detect these biomarkers at concentrations lower than those usually present in saliva. This breakthrough, particularly in glucose detection in human saliva, holds promise for making health monitoring less invasive and more manageable for individuals with chronic conditions like diabetes.

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