A team of scientists at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. have devised a method for potentially diagnosing mouth cancer using lollipops.

To enable this, the team created lollipops composed of a smart hydrogel. As patients suck on the lollipop, the hydrogel reportedly traps proteins in the saliva, which the researchers suggest function as biomarkers or indicators of potential cancer. Once captured, the proteins can be analyzed in the lab, the researchers noted.

This new approach for diagnosing mouth cancer, according to the researchers, could improve traditional mouth cancer diagnostics, which often involve invasive procedures such as biopsies or nasoendoscopy, wherein a flexible tube with a camera is inserted into the nose or mouth of the patient.

Further, because this non-invasive approach could potentially be performed in primary care settings, it could possibly lead to earlier diagnoses.

The team of University of Birmingham scientists have recently been awarded £350,000 to further develop the hydrogel-based lollipops.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com