Saliva - the gatekeeper of oral health
Saliva forms a complex protein layer on any type of surface that comes in contact with it by a selective process where, depending on the physicochemical properties of the surface (wettability, surface charge, chemical composition), different types of proteins will adsorb. This protein layer, also known as salivary pellicle, exerts several functions, such as protective barrier, lubricant, keeping the hydration in the oral cavity, mineralization/demineralization of teeth.
The protective role of the pellicle is of a multifunctional nature since it is not just a physical barrier against microbial colonization but also protects teeth from the chemical corrosion that result from food/drinks intake and/or microbial secretion and the physical erosion produced by friction. Its function as a physical barrier makes saliva a key-player in the performance of orally administered drugs. Lubrication and hydration are very important factors that have been shown to affect the quality of life scores among dry mouth patients. A dry mouth may be caused by wide variety of factors such as dehydration, stress or drug consumption. In some cases, it might be the external reflection of conditions such as diabetes or Sjögren’s syndrome.
Aims and methods
We aim to characterize the main role(s) played by whole saliva and its components (e.g. mucins, statherin) by assessing the interaction of saliva with different materials relevant in the fields of dentistry, food science and drug delivery.
Whole saliva (unstimulated and stimulated) and glandular saliva will be collected from volunteers. Analysis of the composition will be performed by means of SDS-PAGE, Western Blot and proteomics. Additionally, quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation (QCM-D) will be used to study the interaction of saliva with relevant materials and the structure of the pellicle formed on these surfaces. The salivary proteins involved will be identified and purified, and their behavior will be further investigated. Additional methods will be used for the characterization of the surfaces and materials: UV-vis spectrometry, Fourier Transformed Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR), Dynamic light scattering – Z sizer, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Profilometry and Atomic Absorption Spectrometry.
The main application arising from this investigation will be the development of an artificial saliva to alleviate the symptoms of dry mouth patients and the project is expected to generate further research questions leading to a PhD project.
This project aims to introduce the student(s) to working with saliva and its collection and handling methods. The student(s) will be trained in all the necessary laboratory methods and techniques, including health and safety protocols, and will be involved in all stages of the research. Additionally, the student(s) will be instructed in critical interpretation of the obtained results and how to report them.
The results of the project are expected to benefit already existing research directions at the faculty and lead to new ones. Therefore, the possibilities for collaboration with other members of the Faculty of Dentistry or external researchers (inside and outside UiO) are very high. The results are to be published in international scientific journals.
We are part of the Department of Biomaterials (Assoc. Prof. Hanna Tiainen) and the Oral Research Laboratory (Senior Engineer Alejandro Barrantes), where most of the experimental work will be performed. We are mainly interested in the development and characterization of biomaterials with a strong focus on their biological response. Currently, we co-supervise a PhD candidate (Florian Weber) in a project related to the development of antibacterial coatings for bone integration and regeneration implants. We have long experience in student supervision and we always try to create a friendly working environment, where students can focus on developing their analytical and practical research skills.