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Fluid with many tasks: this is how spit becomes a “bouncer” in the mouth


Saliva is often considered disgusting. You only notice how important it is when it is missing, for example with a dry mouth. And he’s kind of a super liquid. Researchers have taken a closer look at how the spit becomes a security service in the mouth.

Highly specialized glands in the mouth make spit a kind of super liquid. Each of the three main types contributes certain substances that make saliva a kind of bouncer at the entrance to our body. US researcher around Omer Gokcumen from the University of Buffalo describe in the journal “Cell Reports”where exactly different components of the spit are formed.

The saliva in our mouths is not just water that can soften bits of bread. It is a special fluid that performs a number of tasks. This includes washing away food residues from your teeth and between the teeth, maintaining the mineralization of the teeth and eliminating pathogens. In addition, the spit begins to digest starch from pasta, for example, in the mouth.

“Salivary proteins provide access to our body,” says Gokcumen according to a statement from his university. “We suffer when they don’t work properly.”

About a liter of saliva a day

Experts assume that an adult forms around one liter of saliva a day. Most of it comes from the large salivary glands. They are divided into three types, each of which occurs in pairs: parotid gland (glandula parotis), mandibular gland (glandula mandibularis) and sublingual gland (sublingual gland). Each type of gland produces unique secretions which then mix and form the spit.

The saliva gets a good part of its special properties from proteins, proteins with very different tasks. “Up to now, scientists had an idea of ​​which proteins were found in the mouth. But there was no complete picture of where they came from. We want to close this gap,” says Gokcumen.

He and his team have now been able to show where these proteins are formed. To do this, they took a closer look at which genes are particularly active in the cells of the glands. From this they were able to conclude which proteins are particularly strongly formed there.

Hope for new research opportunities

The ear and mandibular salivary glands produce large quantities of salivary amylases, which help break down starch. In addition, the researchers’ results indicate that not all proteins in the spit come from the salivary glands, but could also come from blood plasma, for example.

The researchers hope that their results will pave the way for new medical investigation options. It has long been a wish of doctors to draw conclusions about physical functions and diseases based on the composition of saliva.

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