What if, in future, saliva were to replace blood tests? “The mouth can act as a mirror for our overall state of health,” comments Vincent Blasco-Baque. “Its salivary biomarkers reveal the body’s true condition.” He and his colleague Matthieu Minty have designed a saliva test that would offer an interesting alternative, not only for the 3.5 million diabetics in France, but also for people suffering from other pathologies such as heart failure or coronary diseases.
The biomarkers have been identified and are currently in the validation phase. A miniature prototype that can be implanted in a crown is expected to be ready by 2025. “We know that oral diseases are associated with certain metabolic, cardiovascular, respiratory or neurodegenerative diseases. Recent studies have also demonstrated that certain oral microbial factors contribute to the risk of developing some cancers, or liver fibrosis,” Matthieu Minty adds. An algorithm that links biological and microbiological salivary composition and blood sugar has therefore been developed. The biosensor would continuously carry out measurements that show the patient’s blood sugar level (fatty acids, cholesterol, lipase and other enzymes, and so on), then transmit them via smartphone to the doctor. Diabetics would no longer need to inject themselves as they currently do, sometimes several times a day.
“Monitoring the oral cavity and saliva will allow us to monitor general patient pathologies in a non-invasive, easy, painless and continuous manner. The possibilities are endless given that saliva interacts with all pathologies. This connected tooth currently targets diabetes, but in future it will cover all metabolic diseases, cancers, neurodegenerative pathologies and even auto-immune diseases,” Professor Vincent Blasco-Baque, researcher at the Toulouse Metabolic and Cardiovascular Research Institute.
The search for industrial partners is now underway so fundraising can be launched, with the support of Inserm Tech Transfert, Inserm’s private subsidiary charged with coordinating the development of research laboratory innovations. A clinical trial is expected to start by the end of the year with a validation cohort of 80 patients, whose blood sugar and saliva will be analyzed for 10 hours continuously using a special bowl.
This miniaturized implant could in time make medical check-ups easier, with no need to use the services of an analytical laboratory.