A recently completed pilot study conducted with the University of Michigan has shown that a Sandia National Laboratories handheld device determined in minutes -- from a tiny sample of saliva -- not only if a patient has gum disease, but how advanced the disease is.

Using a disposable lab-on-a-chip cartridge, the device makes use of a molecularsieve made out of a polyacrylamide gel. A low electrical current is passed through the gel and a process called electro- phoresis moves charged proteins through it, thereby separating the proteins contained in the saliva. Prior to this separation, the proteins are brought into contact with specific antibodies chosen for their ability to bind to the biomarkers. The antibodies are pre-labeled with fluorescent molecules. Interrogation by laser of these combined molecules determines the amount of biomarker present.

Because the amount of sample fluid needed for testing is so small, further applications exist in other disease areas including potentially improved diagnosis of prostate and breast cancer.

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