A new test involving studying the saliva of patients has shown “promising results” in providing a way to detect the early signs of dementia.
Researchers from the Beaumont Research Institute in Michigan, US, as well as from the University of Alberta In Canada, studied saliva samples of 29 adults.
Of these 29, 12 were healthy, 9 had Alzheimer’s disease and 8 had mild cognitive impairment, a condition often seen as the stage before dementia occurs.
By examining the saliva samples, the researchers wished to discover if there was any particular makeup of chemical substances, known as biomarkers, that could be unique to each of the three groups of adults.
Upon examination, the researchers found that the different groups could be distinguished with good accuracy based on the biomarkers found in saliva.
High levels of acetone and imidazole were found to distinguish between the healthy adults and those with mild cognitive impairment, as well as low levels of galactose.
For those with Alzheimer’s, the study found that high levels of propionate and acetone could distinguish them from the healthy controls.
The researchers also concluded that high levels of creatinine and 5-aminopentanoate could distinguish people with Alzheimer’s from those with mild cognitive impairment.
Benefits of biomarkers
The test was developed by researchers after previously discovering that the molecules found in saliva showed promise in being reliable diagnostic biomarkers, therefore possibly having the ability to detect early signs of the disease.
Dr Stewart Graham, of the Beaumont Research Institute in Michigan, US, said: “We used metabolomics, a newer technique to study molecules involved in metabolism.
“Our goal was to find unique patterns of molecules in the saliva of our study participants that could be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease in the earliest stages, when treatment is considered most effective.
“Presently, therapies for Alzheimer’s are initiated only after a patient is diagnosed and treatments offer modest benefits.”
The use of metabolomics is often seen as one of the simplest and least invasive ways of studying the health of people and detecting various diseases.
“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 non-invasive means of getting cellular samples and it’s also inexpensive.”
Further studies still required
While the results are promising, the results cannot be proven to be conclusive due to the small sample size. As such, the researchers behind the study are now seeking additional funds to conduct a 3-yearlong study with a larger pool of participants.
Detecting dementia in its earliest stages is often paramount to helping those with the disease, as the earlier it can be detected, the earlier families can plan for treatment and make important decisions regarding the nature of dementia care they wish to take.
It also allows families to see what services are available in their area that they may need to rely on at a later date, such as dementia day centres, which provide dementia day care services among other forms of assistance and care to individuals.