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Salivary biomarker development using genomic, proteomic and metabolomic approaches

Nicolai J Bonne and David TW Wong

Author Affiliations

School of Dentistry and Dental Research Institute, University of California Los Angeles, 650 Charles Young Drive, CHS 73-032, Los Angeles, California, USA

Genome Medicine 2012, 4:82  doi:10.1186/gm383

Published: 30 October 2012


The use of saliva as a diagnostic sample provides a non-invasive, cost-efficient method of sample collection for disease screening without the need for highly trained professionals. Saliva collection is far more practical and safe compared with invasive methods of sample collection, because of the infection risk from contaminated needles during, for example, blood sampling. Furthermore, the use of saliva could increase the availability of accurate diagnostics for remote and impoverished regions. However, the development of salivary diagnostics has required technical innovation to allow stabilization and detection of analytes in the complex molecular mixture that is saliva. The recent development of cost-effective room temperature analyte stabilization methods, nucleic acid pre-amplification techniques and direct saliva transcriptomic analysis have allowed accurate detection and quantification of transcripts found in saliva. Novel protein stabilization methods have also facilitated improved proteomic analyses. Although candidate biomarkers have been discovered using epigenetic, transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomic approaches, transcriptomic analyses have so far achieved the most progress in terms of sensitivity and specificity, and progress towards clinical implementation. Here, we review recent developments in salivary diagnostics that have been accomplished using genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomic approaches.