What can spit reveal about the health of our nation’s children? That’s what researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing (JHUSON) will be examining with new funding from the National Children’s Study (NCS).
The JHUSON Center for Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research (CISBR) will use the $1.22 million award to determine how saliva analysis can enhance and complement the NCS, a multi-year research project examining the effects of environmental influences on the health and development of more than 100,000 children across the U.S. from birth to age 21.
CISBR researchers led by director Douglas A. Granger, PhD, will explore strategies for saliva collection and develop tests that can be implemented in saliva for the large-scale study.
“It’s time to be able to apply what we have been developing all this time into something that will really make a difference,” says Granger. “In a big study like this, it raises the possibility that you could figure out why it is important to know the particular levels of analytes in saliva.”
CISBR researchers will first study ways to make saliva sample collection feasible and scalable for a large study, exploring the best ways to collect, gather, and track samples while maintaining sample integrity and study participation. Second, CISBR researchers will lead a team that includes researchers from Emory University in Atlanta and University of California, Los Angeles, to examine what saliva analytes tests can be optimally refined, validated, and implemented for the larger study. For example, saliva can reveal levels of hormones related to stress and reproduction, markers of exposure to certain infectious diseases, genetic polymorphisms, and signs of oral inflammation that could signal health problems.
The funding, from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, covers 18 months and is a subcontract under contracts awarded to Johns Hopkins University to establish an NCS Center and implement the study in Baltimore and Montgomery counties.