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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Nov 18 15:42:03 EST 2009

Saliva proteins change as women age

In a step toward using human saliva to tell whether those stiff joints, memory lapses, and other telltale signs of aging are normal or red flags for disease, scientists are describing how the protein content of women’s saliva changes with advancing age. The discovery could lead to a simple, noninvasive test for better diagnosing and treating certain age-related diseases in women, they suggest in a report in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research, a monthly publication: “Quantitative Analysis of Age Specific Variation in the Abundance of Human Female Parotid Salivary Proteins”. These diseases include lupus, Sjögrens syndrome (associated with dry mouth and dry eye), and other immune-related disorders that affect millions of women worldwide, often at higher rates than in men.

John Yates and colleagues note that human saliva contains many different proteins involved in digestion, disease fighting, and other functions. Scientists are seeking ways to use the proteins as molecular “fingerprints” to develop quick diagnostic tests that provide an alternative to the needle sticks currently needed for blood tests. To do that, they need detailed information on how normal aging affects these proteins.

The scientists analyzed saliva proteins in healthy women aged 20-30 and 55-65. They identified 293 proteins differed between the two age groups. Most were involved in the immune system’s defenses against infection. Older women had almost twice as many immune-related proteins than younger women. The results suggest that “it is critical to take into consideration these normal differences in protein expression when searching for clinically relevant, disease specific biomarkers,” the article notes.


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Doctors may one day be able to diagnose
age-related diseases in women using
samples of their saliva.
Credit: American Chemical Society
(High-resolution version)