Often caused by imbalanced levels of acid in the mouth, tooth decay is a widespread problem almost without equal; the World Health Organization calls untreated tooth decay the planet’s most common health condition, with oral disease affecting nearly 3.5 billion people worldwide. The agency points to sugar consumption and poor hygiene, along with alcohol and tobacco use as the leading risk factors. In response to this global health issue, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based health-tech company Lura Health came up with a high-tech solution: the Lura Health monitoring system. It’s touted as the world’s first salivary diagnostic monitoring platform, and has its eye on hitting the consumer market next year.
Luna’s flagship product is a smart band that’s worn over a tooth continuously for months until it’s removed by a dentist. While worn, the band monitors acid levels to help prevent tooth decay. If the band detects acid levels that are apt to cause damage, a sensor transmits a signal to the Lura app, which offers medical advice and recommendations of acid-reducing products to help reduce the risk tooth decay. The app also logs the user’s oral health data — which can be synched with Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) — for use in creating prevention plans in conjunction with the user’s healthcare providers.
While Luna’s initial to-market wearable only measures for acid in saliva, they boldly proclaim that “saliva is the new blood of health diagnostics,” predicting that one day biomarkers related to fitness, hormones, allergens, oncology, and toxins will all be available through analyzing saliva. Are they right? Recent saliva research suggests that they might be. Earlier this year, Spectrum Solutions, a laboratory medicine life science company, and a research team at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) published findings that demonstrate the ability to identify cancer biomarkers through saliva. The joint project successfully detected circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) from saliva.
Spectrum CEO Steve Fanning says, “For patients, the ability to use the self-collection of saliva empowers a new, safer, easier and pain-free era of detection and treatment innovation with real at-home remote care possibilities.” Dr. David Wong of UCLA’s School of Dentistry adds, “Achieving detectable concentrations of ctDNA in body fluids is not an easy task. The significance of successfully demonstrating this capability with saliva is the holy grail of liquid biopsy research.”
While nobody seems to be calling Luna’s tooth band a holy grail just yet, the science behind it appears sound, and the device is simple for the user; getting biomarkers from saliva is about as non-invasive as it gets.