ROYAL OAK, Mich. — Worried you might be at risk for Alzheimer’s disease? Your spit may hold future. A new study finds that molecules in saliva could be a strong factor in predicting whether or not a person is more likely to suffer from the debilitating brain ailment.
The study, conducted by the Beaumont Research Institute, hopes to be among the first that could spot the potential for Alzheimer’s early on, allowing for increased prevention methods among patients. Treatment for the disease is far more effective when started earlier in a patient’s life.
Researchers examined 29 people — eight of whom had mild cognitive impairment (MCI), nine who suffered from Alzheimer’s, and 12 who were considered healthy — and collected saliva samples from each. Using what’s called “metabolomics,” a new process that probes molecules involved in metabolism, the researchers were able to find and identify 57 metabolites. Twenty-two of those biomarkers from the participants with either MCI or Alzheimer’s showed significant differences from those examined in the control group.
The team believes those biomarkers could signal a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Our team’s study demonstrates the potential for using metabolomics and saliva for the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease,” says researcher Dr. Stewart Graham in a press release. “Given the ease and convenience of collecting saliva, the development of accurate and sensitive biomarkers would be ideal for screening those at greatest risk of developing Alzheimer’s. In fact, unlike blood or cerebrospinal fluid, saliva is one of the most noninvasive means of getting cellular samples and it’s also inexpensive.”
More than 5 million people in America are living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. By 2050, that number could balloon to 16 million, the organization warns. For that reason, Graham hopes his team’s technique can prove to be an effective prevention tool to temper those predictions.
“Worldwide, the development of valid and reliable biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease is considered the No. 1 priority for most national dementia strategies. It’s a necessary first step to design prevention and early-intervention research studies,” he says.
The researchers now hope to launch an even larger study with a greater sample size that spans over three years.
The study was published this past week in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.