Congratulations to our PhD candidate Lucas Trevisan Franca de Lima, whose extensive research has been published in iScience journal.

In a world first, he has created saliva-based testing to detect liver fibrosis and cirrhosis.

The aim of his research was to create a simple, non-invasive saliva test to improve access to liver testing, especially for people living in rural and remote communities.

(Fibrosis is any degree of scarring in the liver, while cirrhosis is the most severe and extensive pattern of scarring when the chance of complications of liver disease is higher.)

Gallipoli Medical Research (GMR) has supported Lucas during his research, including providing travel grants which has allowed him to present this work at national and international conferences in the USA!

With his curious personality, Lucas pursued a career in science and has been involved in biomedical research since 2017 during an undergraduate internship.

After completing a Bachelor in Biological Sciences then a Masters in Pathology in his homeland of Brazil, he moved to Australia in early 2020 to start his PhD through Griffith University.

Lucas has been supervised by Professor Darrell Crawford, Director of Research at GMRF, and Principal Supervisor at Griffith University Professor Chamindie Punyadeera.

“This research is exciting because it’s the first saliva-based test to diagnose liver fibrosis/cirrhosis. Until now, diagnosing fibrosis required blood tests and liver biopsy, which are invasive and carry risks,” said Lucas.

“We collected saliva samples from patients with different stages of liver disease and analysed proteins that were increased in the saliva of people with advanced conditions. By measuring the concentration of these proteins, we could identify people without liver fibrosis to those with advanced fibrosis.”

“The PhD project proposes a very innovative way to diagnose liver diseases, and I had to provide enough evidence that saliva can indeed reflect a condition that is not directly linked to the oral cavity. Hopefully, this recent publication will bring more attention to saliva for this application.”

“Saliva testing is an exciting and recent field of diagnostics. It means that diagnosing liver fibrosis will be simple and easier for people living in remote areas (who have limited access to clinics) as they can just return the tests in the mail.”

“I find this research very interesting because the saliva test has real-world potential to make a significant impact on people’s health. It’s so rewarding to think that it will eventually lead to improvements in a patient’s quality of life such as the ability to diagnose liver fibrosis at an early stage when lifestyle interventions are effective,” said Lucas.

However, there is a lot more work to do to get the saliva test to the market. Lucas is looking forward to continuing with his project at Griffith University while being supported by GMRF.

“Identifying liver injury early will allow patients to have their liver disease managed earlier and to be placed onto screening programs for liver cancer detection. This could ultimately reduce the burden of liver disease for patients, the community and the national healthcare system.”

“This project is also advancing knowledge for other researchers and encouraging consideration of using different methods to test liver health.”

We look forward to seeing how Lucas’s work continues to evolve in the future.


The article A salivary biomarker panel to detect liver cirrhosis was published in the journal iScience on 21 July 2023.