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Device screens patients in minutes for periodontal disease

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—A portable saliva test device developed by a University of Michigan School of Dentistry professor could tell patients in just minutes if they have periodontal disease, a hefty improvement over current methods which require hours of analysis at an off-site lab.

The saliva test device was developed jointly by U-M's Dr. William Giannobile and Dr. Anup Singh of Sandia National Laboratories. Testing with the kit has progressed to the point where a dentist would need only a drop of saliva from a patient and less than 10 minutes of time to analyze the sample to determine if the patient has periodontal disease. Current sample analysis requires hours of time at a laboratory away from a dental office.

Giannobile, director of the Michigan Center for Oral Health Research, said that in recent months MCOHR has been conducting tests that are adaptable to using microfluidic technology. "Using a miniaturized lab-on-a-chip approach, we have been able to separate and analyze proteins quickly, typically within minutes of sample separation," he said. Established in 2003, MCOHR takes discoveries from research laboratories and attempts to find ways to use them to benefit oral health care professionals and their patients.

The saliva test kit measures a tissue-destructive enzyme, matrix metalloptoteinase-8, a molecule which is released from cells that tend to migrate to periodontal lesions.

"Using just a very small sample of saliva, we found our tests to be highly accurate in identifying patients with periodontal disease, without the need for a more time consuming and comprehensive clinical examination," Giannobile said. "This method could one day be used to screen large patient populations which could have major implications for oral health."

From late 2005 through 2006, 130 patients were tested at MCOHR clinics in northeast Ann Arbor.

Collaborating with Giannobile are Mark Burns, professor with the U-M College of Engineering, and Dr. Christoph Ramseier and Janet Kinney, both MCOHR research fellows. The National Institutes of Health provided funding for the test studies. The lab-on-a-chip technology was developed and manufactured by Sandia National Laboratories, which has major research and developmental interests in national security, energy, and environmental technologies.

The results of an analytical test appeared in the March 27 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation's leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care, and community service. General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan. Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies. Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide. For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit: www.dent.umich.edu.