VITO, in collaboration with Tulane University of New Orleans, is developing a simple saliva test to detect stress. The awarding of a prestigious grant in 2014 marked the start of a promising study.
In November 2014, VITO project manager and researcher Patrick De Boever was awarded a grant by Grand Challenges Explorations, an international grant fund under the aegis of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant gives De Boever the operating funds needed for research into a simple method for measuring the effects of stress in young children. For the project, VITO is collaborating with Tulane University of New Orleans.
The characteristics of chronic stress and its effects on the brain have been fairly well measured in adults. This is much harder to do at a younger age. As an alternative to a blood test or a brain scan, VITO wishes to develop a saliva test that provides an insight into the neurological development of children. Saliva contains sensitive biomarkers such as DNA and RNA that indicate how well children are coping with stress. A single saliva strip gives researchers an idea of the strategy the brain has developed to resist stress.
VITO is expanding an existing database from New Orleans with saliva samples taken from 10-year-olds from Romania and the Belgian province of Limburg. The research on this latter group is being conducted in partnership with Hasselt University. VITO researchers will then develop a prototype saliva test based on a comparative study.