While a healthy brain can be easily distinguished from one that is suffering from Alzheimer’s, a simple saliva test could give us a head start long before the effects are visible. Researchers from the University of Alberta found that they can predict the dreaded disease years in advance.
The method is based upon the analyzing of metabolites. Metabolites are what remains after our body finishes any of its diverse metabolic reactions, including within those within the brain. Alzheimer’s affects the metabolism of people from its very early stages.
Researchers can now tell the difference between metabolites collected from healthy individuals compared to those harvested from an Alzheimer suffering patient. Using this method they can tell if someone will most likely develop the degenerative disease within the following years.
The fact that metabolites can be easily harvested from saliva is a plus. In order to detect Alzheimer, costly and quite invasive methods have to be used. The saliva test is quicker, very easy to administer and, most importantly, cheaper than the current existing procedures.
Scientists hope that this will encourage as many people as possible to take the test. Alzheimer’s disease is starting to affect a significant percentage of the elder population in the U.S. The test could be able to detect the disease decades before the symptoms even start to appear, claims Dean Hartley, one of the members of the research team.
Some may raise the concern that it would be better not knowing you will suffer from the disease so well in advance. However, this method might offer many patients the power to make an informed decisions about their lives while they still have the mental capacity to do so.
Furthermore, for all we know, the onset of the disease could be the moment when it can be cured. This test would allow for further research into how Alzheimer starts to appear, allowing for new treatment methods to be tried.
The current study involved more than 80 people and the test was highly accurate in detecting those with degenerative diseases. However, as the researchers themselves said, the research is only in its beginning and there are a lot of clinical trials to be had before the test becomes widely available.
Still, the already existing results show great promise. Perhaps this will provide us with new methods of fighting a disease that is affecting up to 5 million people in the U.S. alone.
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