Alzheimer’s is a disease with devastating effects, and the number of people suffering from it is only expected to rise over the next several years.
Knowing this, researchers have thrown themselves into discovering potential treatments, but now a new study may help diagnose Alzheimer’s sooner rather than later, opening up new avenues for potential treatments.
The research, which was done at the University of Alberta in Canada, was presented at the 2015 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington this week. Although the research is still in the beginning stages, it represents new hope for diagnostic tools and treatment of this degenerative illness.
Saliva Is The Key
The key to this early detection? Your spit. Researchers use liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (or LCMS) to analyze the contents of saliva.
The study, which was fairly small in scale, compared the saliva of people with normal aging, people with mild age-related cognitive impairment, and people with Alzheimer’s disease.
They were able to successfully identify biomarkers in the saliva of the people with Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment that differentiated their spit from that of the healthy individuals.
“Easily Obtained, Safe, And Affordable”
Researchers are especially optimistic about these results given that saliva is “easily obtained, safe, and affordable, and has promising potential for predicting and tracking cognitive decline,” said Shraddha Sapkota, a lead researcher on the study(1). “But we’re in the very early stages of this work and much more research is needed… Equally important is the possibility of using saliva to find targets for treatment to address the metabolic component of Alzheimer’s, which is still not well understood.”
“This study brings us closer to solving that mystery.”
The results still aren’t conclusive enough for doctors to be able to use the saliva test to tell if patients are developing Alzheimer’s. But Sapkota says that that is the goal.
Mild cognitive decline is often an early warning sign, and being able to tell which patients are experiencing it with a saliva test instead of relying on symptom descriptions could take a lot of the guesswork out, especially in the early stages.
The Rising Cost Of Alzheimer’s
While approximately 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each day in the United States, Alzheimer’s advocates say that the U.S. needs to step up their game in terms of Alzheimer’s research. The cost to family caregivers and the Federal government is already significant, and only expected to rise(2).
Among other research presented at the conference was research on potentially effective new drugs for treating Alzheimer’s symptoms, and other means of early detection using biomarkers. One researcher at the conference pointed out that finding inflammation in specific areas of the brain can indicate a risk for Alzheimer’s disease(3).