Saliva Test May Unlock The Key to Early Alzheimer's Diagnosis

Littleton dental practice

Our spit may just hold the key to determining our future brain health. Researchers at the Beaumont Research Institute have hopes their study involving certain molecules found in human saliva may help to identify patients at risk of Alzheimer’s disease, a significant neurological condition that many health experts are predicting will rise to epidemic levels by 2050. Researchers hope that if a simple saliva test can be developed, Alzheimer’s testing can become a routine part of oral health care at our Littleton dental practice and practices everywhere.

The recent study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Unlocking the Key to Early Detection

This study highlights the growing effort of researchers to find a way to better identify and defeat Alzheimer’s, a degenerative brain disorder that has no cure and few reliable means of diagnosis. In the U.S. alone, the disease impacts the health of over 5 million American adults. By developing an early form of testing for the disease, researchers hope to find a way to successfully identify Alzheimer’s early before brain damage occurs and the onset of dementia begins.

Explaining the goal of their study, researchers 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.”

Metabolomics is a process used in biology and medicine to study living organisms. The process records large numbers of small molecules that occur naturally in the body – called metabolites – that appear in tissue, saliva, and blood samples. How the metabolites manifest can tell researchers a great deal about the overall health of an organism.

“Our team’s study demonstrates the potential for using metabolomics and saliva for the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.,” stated researchers. “Given the ease and convenience of collecting saliva, the development of accurate and sensitive biomarkers would be ideal for screening those at the greatest risk of developing Alzheimer’s. In fact, unlike blood or cerebrospinal fluid, saliva is one of the most noninvasive means of getting cellular samples and it’s also inexpensive.”

In their study, researchers examined 29 adults divided into three groups: control, Alzheimer’s disease, and a mild cognitive impairment group. After samples were taken, researchers were able to accurately quantify and identify 57 metabolites. Some of the noted variances in the biomarkers were significant. From the data they collected, researchers were able to make predictions as to which members in each group had the highest risk of Alzheimer’s.

“Worldwide, the development of valid and reliable biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease is considered the No. 1 priority for most national dementia strategies. It’s a necessary first step to design prevention and early-intervention research studies,” noted researchers regarding the need for improved testing methods.

An Aging Population, a Growing Problem

As the Baby Boomer generation continues to cause a spike in the number of senior Americans, the number of people afflicted with Alzheimer’s continues to increase at a startling rate. By 2050, health experts predict the number of American’s living with the disease will triple to around 15 to 16 million, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that impacts an individual’s ability to function, think, and communicate. It greatly impacts the lives and relationships of everyone around them, and often deprives the patients of their independence. The disease not only impacts countless lives, it also costs the U.S. over $259 billion a year.

If researchers can perfect their testing, the ability to diagnosis Alzheimer’s at our Littleton dental practice could help save and improve the lives of many people in our community and around the world.