Our saliva contains our chemical fingerprint and in the future it could be used to diagnose diseases.
This is the frontier crossed in a recent study appeared in the Journal of Proteome Research, published by the American Chemical Society, and carried out by CERM (European Centre for Magnetic Resonance) researchers lead by Paola Turano, associate professor of Chemistry, together with scientists of the University of Graz, coordinated by Kurt Zatloukal (“Individual Human Metabolic Phenotype Analyzed by <sup>1</sup>H NMR of Saliva Samples” DOI: 10.1021/acs.jproteome.5b01060).
The study is part of research efforts aimed at discovering diagnostic procedures that are less invasive for patients, quicker and less costly. The team has challenged the hypothesis that in saliva lies disease markers as is already the case for urine. Scientists have analysed with NMR samples of saliva of 23 healthy volunteers collected several times a day for 10 consecutive days.
"The analysis concerned small molecules, the metabolites present in saliva, showing the phenotype, that is all the visible characteristics of a living being, the chemical fingerprint of each person, linked to its genes but also to the way they interact with the environment."
“We have demonstrated for the first time, continues Turano, that individuals carry their own 'signature' in saliva. Although further long-term research is needed, the discovery suggests that the identification of phenotypical changes could represent, one day, a reliable way of detecting the onset of illnesses.” From the comparative study of saliva and urine it has emerged as well that the individual's phenotype obtained from saliva changes as a consequence of variation in diet to a lesser degree than the one drawn from urine.
The research was financed by Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze, the European Project COSMOS, Christian Doppler Laboratory for Biospecimen and Biobanking Technologies in Graz and by the Veronesi Foundation. Among the Italian authors of the study Claudio Luchinat, professor of General and Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Florence and in charge of the COSMOS Project, Antonio Mazzoleni and Leonardo Tenori, Chemistry graduand and research fellow of the Fondazione Veronesi respectively.