Medicine/Diagnostics/Saliva analysis

Photos: AIT

Biomarker research is to help identify diseases at an early stage.



AIT conducts research on the molecular diagnostics of saliva: Early diagnosis of diseases such as respiratory infections or type 2 diabetes, therapy monitoring or sample matrix in infants are potential, disruptive areas of application in medicine and pharmacy..


Research and development of

Biosensors and patient-oriented rapid tests for complex life-threatening diseases

Minimally invasive in-vitro diagnostics for the early detection of diseases and therapy monitoring


Easy to collect, suitable for every age

No risk of infection

Pain and anxiety-free sampling

Fast results possible


Medical molecular diagnostics at the point of care

Sports and Lifestyle

Pets and farm animals


We develop solutions for non-invasive molecular dia- gnostics from saliva and other body fluids. On the one hand, the focus is on the development and validation of new biomarkers. Here, we focus in particular on epigenetic factors such as the DNA methylation state of free-circulating nucleic acids as well as on the quantitative changes in the antibody level of patients affected by disease. Another focal point is the deter- mination and quantification of free-circulating and exosome-associated miRNA species in saliva and other body fluids. In order to measure these and other biomarkers in a patient-oriented and cost-effective manner, suitable biosensors and fully integrated point-of-care solutions are needed. The focus here is in particular on the development of new printing tech- nologies for cost-effective quantitative biosensors as well as new electrochemical sensor systems.


In the project DIAGORAS, an EU-funded program with participants from nine countries, saliva is used for the diagnosis of infections in the mouth and respiratory tract – with this taking place at the point of care (in the bed or on the treatment chair, and no longer centralized). The project develops a diagnostic device that allows quick and accurate prescripti- ons of personalized treatments on site. The differentiation between viral and bacterial pathogens and the identification of antibiotic resistance within just one hour is also to help prevent the undirected use of antibio- tics which has already led to widespread resistances in pathogens. Health systems struggle with the enormous morbidity and mortality as- sociated with infectious diseases as well as the incessant increase in antimicrobial resistance. In order to adequately solve this, the develop- ment of faster and more accurate PoC diagnostics is necessary. The me- thodology is shifting from a traditional, laboratory-based approach to a multiplexed, molecular-based analysis. DIAGORAS wants to change the medical diagnosis in a disruptive manner.


Globally, more than 400 million people appear to be affected by diabe- tes, an increase to just under 600 million is predicted for 2030. 90 per cent of those affected suffer from type 2 diabetes („adult-onset diabe- tes“). In the EpiTyp-2 project, so-called epigenetic biomarkers are to be identified that allow an early detection of type 2 diabetes. AIT can cont- ribute its many years of experience with epigenetic biomarkers and high-throughput technologies for biomarker discovery to the research project EpiTyp-2. In the EpiTyp-2 project, the search for the diabetes early detection biomarkers is specifically conducted in exosomes – ve- sicles with a diameter between 20 and 120 nanometers that are secre- ted by cells, often in stress or disease situations. They are present in all body fluids and contain numerous macromolecules, proteins, nucleic acids (DNA, mRNA, micro-RNA). Exosomes play an important role in the communication between cells.

Exosomes secreted by tumor cells have, for example, a very specific content (RNAs, proteins) and can transmit it to other cells. In addition, cancer patients also have more exosomes in their body fluids. There is therefore enormous potential for minimally invasive diagnostics. In the EpiTyp-2 project, AIT specifically targets the exosomes in saliva and the microRNAs contained therein – short, non-protein-translating RNAs, which play a crucial role in many physiological and pathophy- siological processes and can specifically prevent the synthesis of pro- teins. AIT‘s second target molecule for diabetes early markers from saliva is the exosomal DNA or the extent of the DNA methylation found in exosomes. DNA methylation is a reversible chemical change in the basic building blocks of the genetic make-up of cells which is also able to switch off genes and is often an early event in the deve- lopment of diseases, e.g. in carcinogenesis. Changes in DNA methyla- tion are detectable, e.g. in plasma and saliva, and in exosomes isola- ted from them and are ideally suited as minimally invasive biomarkers for the early diagnosis of diseases.

In recent years, an instrument box which includes electrochemical, magnetic and optical measuring principles has been built at AIT.