Scientists at the University of Alberta have identified three biomarkers for detecting mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease in saliva samples. The study has promising results for clinical use.
The research team combines experience in metabolomics with Liang Li, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Neurodegenerative Disorders by Roger Dickson, a professor in the Department of Psychology. "All predictions point to the impending and stunning global impact of neurodegenerative diseases and dementia," Dixon said of the critical importance of this study.
Li and Dixon examined the salivary samples from three groups of patients, those with Alzheimer's disease, those with mild cognitive impairment and those with normal knowledge. Using a powerful mass spectrometer, the pair explores more than 6,000 metabolites – compounds that are part of our body's metabolic processes – to identify all changes or signatures between groups.
"In this analysis we found three metabolites that can be used to distinguish between these three groups," Li said. "This is a preliminary work because we used a very small sample size, but the results are very promising." If we can use a larger set of samples, we can confirm our findings and test for Alzheimer's disease.
The saliva test will be useful in clinical conditions for its ease and non-invasive character. It also has the potential to detect early neurodegenerative diseases, which allows early intervention.
"So far, no interventions for Alzheimer's disease that change the disease have been successful," Dixon explains. "For this reason, researchers are seeking to detect the earliest signs of the disease so that prevention protocols can be applied."
Another added benefit of identifying these biomarkers is the ability to perform efficacy tests for treatment. "Using biomarkers, we can also test to see what treatments are most effective in treating Alzheimer's, from diet to physical activity to pharmaceuticals," Li said.
The study was published in two papers. The first "Metabolic Analyzes of Saliva Detect New Biomarkers of Alzheimer's Disease" is published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease (doi: 10.3233 / JAD-180711). The second, "Alzheimer's Biomarkers in a number of ways selectively discriminate the clinical condition: the relative importance of panels for saliva metabolism, genetic, vital, cognitive, functional health and demographics for risk" was published in Neuroscience aging boundaries (two: 10.3389 / fnagi.2018.00296).
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