One of the most difficult aspects of Alzheimer’s disease is the fact that there are no warning signs, other than the symptoms of the disease itself. Symptoms like mental decline, memory loss, and dementia. Often times these symptoms come on fast and without any prior warning. A new study from the Monell Center and the USDA is aimed at developing a new screening process that can detect Alzheimer’s disease in its earliest stages. The key to this detection process? An odor marker in urine.
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According to the author of the study, Dr. Bruce Kimball, “Previous research from the USDA and Monell has focused on body odor changes due to exogenous sources such as viruses or vaccines. Now we have evidence that urinary odor signatures can be altered by changes in the brain characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. This finding may also have implications for other neurologic diseases.”
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The implications for a non-invasive, simple, effective, and accurate test for neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s are huge. Although there isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s, early detection could lead to treatments aimed, at the very least, at slowing the mental decline associated with the disease. 5.1 million Americans over the age of 65 are affected by Alzheimer’s. Currently, there is no physiological test that can be done on a living person to diagnose Alzheimer’s, so to develop one would open a whole new doorway to different treatment options.
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The study, which was published in the online journal Scientific Reports, centers around APP mice, which have brain pathology similar to the brain pathology of Alzheimer’s patients. Between chemical analysis and behavioral changes, researchers found that the APP mice had a different odor to their urine that non-APP mice. What was unique, is the fact that the APP mice’s urine wasn’t chemically different, just different in odor.
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Dr. Daniel Wesson, on of the authors of the study, admits: “While this research is at the proof-of-concept stage, the identification of distinctive odor signatures may someday point the way to human biomarkers to identify Alzheimer’s at early stages.” That being said, if this is the first step to creating a detection method that could be included in annual physicals and other basic diagnostic exams, patients wouldn’t have to be blindsided by the onset of symptoms. Detection is an important step in finding a cure.