Proteins in human saliva make up its proteome and may be the key to new, precision medicine diagnostics that would give clinical pathologists new capabilities to identify disease

Clinical pathologists may soon have an array of new precision medicine diagnostic tools based on peoples’ saliva. There are an increasing number of “omes” that can be the source of useful diagnostic biomarkers for developing clinical laboratory tests. The latest is the world’s first saliva protein biome wiki.

Called the Human Salivary Proteome Wiki (HSP Wiki), the “public data platform,” which was created by researchers at the University of Buffalo, is the “first of its kind,” according to Labroots, and “contains data on the many thousands of proteins present in saliva.”

The HSP Wiki brings together data from independent studies on proteins present in human saliva. One of the researchers’ goals is to speed up the development of saliva-based diagnostics and personalized medicine tools.

In “The Human Salivary Proteome Wiki: A Community-Driven Research Platform,” published in the Journal of Dental Research, the researchers wrote, “Saliva has become an attractive body fluid for on-site, remote, and real-time monitoring of oral and systemic health. At the same time, the scientific community needs a saliva-centered information platform that keeps pace with the rapid accumulation of new data and knowledge by annotating, refining, and updating the salivary proteome catalog.

“We developed the Human Salivary Proteome (HSP) Wiki as a public data platform for researching and retrieving custom-curated data and knowledge on the saliva proteome. … The HSP Wiki will pave the way for harnessing the full potential of the salivary proteome for diagnosis, risk prediction, therapy of oral and systemic diseases, and preparedness for emerging infectious diseases,” they concluded.

Stefan Ruhl, DDS, PhD and Omer Gokcumen, PhD

“This community-based data and knowledge base will pave the way to harness the full potential of the salivary proteome for diagnosis, risk prediction, and therapy for oral and systemic diseases, and increase preparedness for future emerging diseases and pandemics,” Stefan Ruhl, DDS, PhD (above right, with Omer Gokcumen, PhD, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences on left), Professor, Department of Oral Biology, University of Buffalo, and lead researcher of the study, told Labroots. Development of precision medicine clinical laboratory diagnostics is part of their research goals. (Photo copyright: University of Buffalo.)

Where Does Saliva Come From?

Saliva is a complex biological fluid that has long been linked to oral health and the health of the upper gastrointestinal tract. Only recently, though, have scientists begun to understand from where in the body saliva proteins originate.

The researchers of a study published in Cell Reports, titled, “Functional Specialization of Human Salivary Glands and Origins of Proteins Intrinsic to Human Saliva” sought to better understand the sources of saliva.

The authors wrote: “Salivary proteins are essential for maintaining health in the oral cavity and proximal digestive tract, and they serve as potential diagnostic markers for monitoring human health and disease. However, their precise organ origins remain unclear.

“Through transcriptomic analysis of major adult and fetal salivary glands and integration with the saliva proteome, the blood plasma proteome, and transcriptomes of 28+ organs, we link human saliva proteins to their source, identify salivary-gland-specific genes, and uncover fetal- and adult-specific gene repertoires,” they added.

“Our results pave the way for future investigations into glandular biology and pathology, as well as saliva’s use as a diagnostic fluid,” the researchers concluded.

Saliva plays a crucial role in digestion by breaking down starches. It also provides a protective barrier in the mouth. When salivary glands malfunction, patients can face serious health consequences. Although clinicians and scientists have long understood the importance of saliva to good health, the question now is whether it contains markers of specific diseases.

“The Human Salivary Proteome Wiki contains proteomic, genomic, transcriptomic data, as well as data on the glycome, sugar molecules present on salivary glycoproteins. New data goes through an interdisciplinary team of curators, which ensures that all input data is accurate and scientifically sound,” noted Labroots.

Graphic of whole saliva

The graphic above “shows the interconnectedness of the thousands of salivary proteins originating from blood plasma, parotid glands, and submandibular and sublingual glands. The diagram is one of many tools available to researchers and clinicians through the Human Salivary Proteome Wiki,” noted a UBNow blog post. (Graphic copyright: University of Buffalo.)

Omics and Their Role in Clinical Laboratory Diagnostics 

Proteomics is just one of several hotly-researched -omics that hold the potential to develop into important personalized medicine and diagnostics tools for pathologists. Genomics is a related area of research being studied for its potential to benefit precision medicine diagnostics.

However, unlike genomes, which do not change, proteomes change constantly. That is one of the main reasons studying the human salivary proteome could lead to valuable diagnostics tools.

Combining the study of the -omes with tools like mass spectrometry, a new era of pathology may be evolving. “With the rapid decrease in the costs of omics technologies over the past few years, whole-proteome profiling from tissue slides has become more accessible to diagnostic labs as a means of characterization of global protein expression patterns to evaluate the pathophysiology of diseases,” noted Pathology News.

Saliva and the Age of Precision Medicine

The study of the -omes may be an important element in the evolution of precision medicine, because of its ability to provide information about what is happening in patients’ bodies at the point of care.

In “Precision Medicine: Establishing Proteomic Assessment Criteria from Discovery to Clinical Diagnostics,” study authors Jennifer E. Van Eyk, PhD, Director, Advanced Clinical Biosystems Research Institute in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, and Kimia Sobhani, PhD, Director, ER and Cancer Center Laboratories and Associate Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, wrote, “The central goal of precision medicine is to provide the right treatment to the right patient at the right time based on their unique diagnosis/pathophysiological signature. Success relies on development of high-quality biomarkers to assist in diagnosis, prognosis, and risk stratification each patient.”

Thus, a full understanding of the proteome of saliva and what causes it to change in response to different health conditions and diseases could open the door to an entirely new branch of diagnostics and laboratory medicine. It is easy and non-invasive to gather and, given that saliva contains so much information, it offers an avenue of study that may improve patients’ lives.

It also would bring us closer to the age of precision medicine where clinical laboratory scientists and pathologists can contribute even more value to referring physicians and their patients.

Dava Stewart

Related Information:

The Human Salivary Proteome Wiki: A Community-Driven Research Platform

Functional Specialization of Human Salivary Glands and Origins of Proteins Intrinsic to Human Saliva

Researchers Create the First Saliva Wiki

Precision Medicine: Establishing Proteomic Assessment Criteria from Discovery to Clinical Diagnostics

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