Science + Technology

UCLA School of Dentistry Receives $15 Million from the NIH to Advance Saliva Diagnostics Research


The UCLA Schoolof Dentistry has received two research awards from the National Institutes of Healthwhich, combined with the school's ongoing NIH-funded saliva research studies,are building UCLA's reputation as a center for excellence in oral fluid research.

A major five-year,$12.5-million UO1 grant from theNational Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, an arm of theNIH, will fuel the development of a functional prototype of the Oral FluidNanoSensor Test (OFNASET), a handheld clinical device for point-of-care salivadiagnostics.

In addition, afive-year, $2.5-million NIH RO1 grant will support efforts to identify thediagnostic signatures of Sjgren's Syndrome in the saliva of individualsaffected by that auto-immune disease.

"The UCLA Schoolof Dentistry is proud to provide leadership in the national effort toinvestigate and innovate in the promising area of saliva diagnostics," said Dr.No-Hee Park, dean of the School of Dentistry.

David Wong, aprofessor in the division of oral biology and medicine and the associate deanof research at the UCLA School of Dentistry, the director of the UCLA DentalResearch Institute and a member of UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center, is the principalinvestigator for both grants.

Predating thenew awards, the School of Dentistry's current saliva research studies supportedby the NIH include the Human Salivary Proteome Project, the UCLA Collaborative Oral Fluid Diagnostic Research Center, and the Genomicsand Proteomics for Progressing Oral Precancer study.

Earlier thisyear, as a product of those efforts, Wong and his colleagues announced thatthey had succeeded in standardizing a laboratory test that recognizes the keybiological markers of oral cancer when present in saliva.

The goal of thenew OFNASET project is to take UCLA's saliva-based oral cancer test out of thelaboratory and move it into the clinical setting, namely dentists' and doctors'offices, in the form of a handheld testing device not much larger than atelevision remote control.

Chih-Ming Ho, theBen Rich-Lockheed Martin Professor at the UCLA Henry Samueli School ofEngineering and Applied Science and a member of the National Academy ofEngineering, is one of Wong's key collaborators on the OFNASET.

"This new U01grant will facilitate the interdisciplinary research effort between scientistsand engineers to realize the application of modern technologies in a way thatwill revolutionize the clinical process of diagnosing oral cancer," Ho said.

UCLA's researchinto the saliva signatures of Sjgren's Syndrome and other diseases may alsobroaden the applicability of a future OFNASET device.

Nearly fourmillion Americans have been diagnosed with Sjgren's Syndrome, a progressiveauto-immune disease that affects women to men in a 9:1 ratio and results in asignificant reduction in the quality of life for these individuals.

Supported by thenew R01 grant, Wong and his team will lead an international,multi-institutional collaboration to employ state-of-the art proteomic andgenomic technologies to harness diagnostic signatures from the saliva ofSjgren's Syndrome patients.

"Ultimately, wewould like to see saliva diagnostics become as valuable as, and in some caseseven more useful than, other commonly utilized tools when it comes to the earlydiagnosis of serious human diseases, whether oral cancer or Sjgren's Syndromeor some other disease," said Wong.

The OFNASETproject represents a collaborative partnership between the UCLA School ofDentistry and the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Scienceand also will involve Vincent Gau of GeneFluidics; Jim Down of BectonDickinson; Elliot Abemayor of the UCLA Division of Head & NeckCancer/Otolaryngology; Uttam Sinha of the University of Southern California;Nelson Rhodus of the University of Minnesota; and Bert O'Malley of theUniversity of Pennsylvania.

Key individualsand institutions participating in the Sjgren's project along with the UCLASchool of Dentistry include Joseph Loo of UCLA's Department of Biological Chemistry;David Elashoff of the UCLA School of Public Health; Philip Fox of the Sjgren'sFoundation; Kathy Moser of the University of Minnesota; Jonathan Ship of NewYork University; Arjan Vissink of University Medical Center Groningen; and JohnGreenspan and Troy Daniels of the Sjgren International Collaborative ClinicalAlliance at the University of California, San Francisco.

The UCLA Schoolof Dentistry is dedicated to improving the oral health of the people ofCalifornia, the nation and the world, and has established an internationalreputation for its teaching, research, patient care and public serviceinitiatives. The school provides education and training programs that developleaders in dental education, research, the profession and the community; conductsresearch programs that generate new knowledge, promote oral health andinvestigate the cause, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of oral disease; anddelivers patient‑centered oral health care to the community and state. The school enrolls nearly 500 students and residents in anumber of academic programs, including the four-year D.D.S program; thetwo-year D.D.S. program for foreign-trained dentists; M.S. and Ph.D. programsin oral biology; programs that combine D.D.S. with M.S., Ph.D. and M.B.A. degrees,and 13 postdoctoral/specialty training programs. For more information,visit

California's largest university, UCLA enrollsapproximately 38,000 students per year and offers degrees from the UCLA Collegeof Letters and Science and 11 professional schools in dozens of varieddisciplines. UCLA consistently ranks among the top five universities andcolleges nationwide in total research-and-development spending, receiving morethan $820 million a year in competitively awarded federal and state grants andcontracts. For every $1 state taxpayers invest in UCLA, the universitygenerates almost $9 in economic activity, resulting in an annual $6 billioneconomic impact on the Greater Los Angeles region. The university's health carenetwork treats 450,000 patients per year. UCLA employs more than 27,000 facultyand staff, has more than 350,000 living alumni and has been home to five NobelPrize recipients.



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