Saskatoon

Professor who studies saliva brings lab and research team to U of S

Imagine if instead of going through a number of painful tests to find out what is ailing you, all you had to do was spit into a tube or have your saliva swabbed. That's what Dr. Walter Siqueira is working on at the College of Dentistry at the University of Saskatchewan.

Research shows how saliva can be used to help diagnose, treat and even prevent diseases

Dr. Walter Siqueira has moved his Salivary Proteomics Research Laboratory to the College of Dentistry at the University of Saskatchewan. (CBC)

Imagine if instead of going through a number of painful tests to find out what is ailing you, all you had to do was spit into a tube or have your saliva swabbed.

That's what Dr. Walter Siqueira is working on at the College of Dentistry at the University of Saskatchewan.

Siqueira is one of the only scientists in Canada conducting this type of research into saliva and, this fall, he has brought his lab and team to the U of S from the University of Western Ontario.

"Everything that you can detect in your blood, for example, you can detect in your saliva,"  Siqueira told Saskatoon Morning's Jennifer Quesnel.

His research is focused on how saliva can be used to improve the health of patients, both as a diagnostic tool and as a therapeutic one. 

Siqueira said his research can provide a wealth of information about how our bodies work and can be used in the detection, prognosis and treatment of not only oral diseases but all types of other illnesses such as cancer, kidney disease and tropical diseases such as the Zika virus.

We are providing a non-invasive, simpler method to provide individuals with a diagnosis and prognosis.- Dr. Walter Siqueira

"We have been using saliva to look at oral health, but now we're taking a step further and using it to look at the overall, systemic health of individuals," he said. "By doing so, we are changing the way diagnostics will look. We are providing a non-invasive, simpler method to provide individuals with a diagnosis and prognosis."

Testing saliva instead of blood offers a painless and easy way to collect data.

Coming to the U of S

Siqueira is a dentist and also has a Ph.D. in biochemistry. Originally from Brazil, he has worked in Boston and for the last decade at the University of Western Ontario.

Siqueira said he accepted the position of professor and acting associate dean at the U of S for two reasons: very good infrastructure and a lot of expertise.

"We can compete with the top universities in the country and North America," he said. "I was recruited to expand the research program and to have a program not just in dentistry but also [one that] connects with the other areas of biomedical sciences."

He has brought his entire Salivary Proteomics Research Laboratory with him along with six of his colleagues.

The research

His lab has two areas of research:

  • Using saliva and its components to identify biomarkers for different types of diseases, including kidney disease, cancers and viral infections.
  • Creating a new method to prevent tooth decay.

The team is researching bio-sensors attached to teeth that send information from your saliva to your dentist or physician via your smartphone or other device, allowing for early diagnosis of disease or treatment of tooth decay.

Siqueira said using saliva to test for things is becoming big business and will become more prevalent as new discoveries are made.

"For example you can go to the United States in the drugstore and buy kits to identify if you have the HIV virus or not," he said. "And this is coming for other, different diseases."

In addition, to his research and teaching activities, Siqueira is also president of the Canadian Association for Dental Research. His research is being funded through Canadian Institutes for Health Research grants.

With Saskatoon Morning files

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