According to a recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports urine might help researchers detect Alzheimer’s at an early stage. After they have performed a study on mice scientists hope to be able to conduct non-invasive urine tests that will enable them to identify the brain disease before it affects the patient seriously.
The research team included scientists from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), USDA National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) and the Monell Chemical Sense Center in Philadelphia. In the study the investigators changed the genes of over a dozen mice. The animals over-expressed three genes which have an important role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Afterwards the researchers collected the urine of the mice and exposed sensor mice to it. These mice have a strong sense of smell which enables them to detect chemical variations in the urine, helping doctors to detect disorders.
The scientists used mice which can develop the similar mental deterioration as Alzheimer’s. They are known as “APP mice” (amyloid precursor protein transgenic mouse models). In their case the excess precursor protein leads to the formation of amyloid plaques which clog up their brains just like Alzheimer’s does to humans.
The scientists observed that when compared to control mice, those mice who suffered from Alzheimer’s presented changed in the odor of urine because of the different concentration of the same compounds. It was observed that the variations in odor signature did not change much with age. They preceded noticeable amounts of amyloid plaque in the mouse brains, which indicates that the odor signature is seemingly linked to the underlying gene, not necessarily to the changes which take place in the brain.
Experts have been searching for a long time for a biomarker for Alzheimer’s and this research might have brought them close to making this discovery. A biomarker is a chemical indication of an illness which may appear before the patient starts to exhibit any symptoms.
One of the authors of the study, chemical ecologist Dr. Bruce Kimball from the USDA National Wildlife Research Center, remarked that now they have evidence that the odor of the urine can be affected by changes in the brain caused by Alzheimer’s. According to him these findings can be applied in the case of other neurologic diseases.
Another co-author, neuroscientist Dr. Daniel from Wesson Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine (Cleveland), explained that even though the research is only at the early stage of proving that the concept works, one day distinctive odor signatures may help identify Alzheimer’s biomarkers in humans.
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