Scientists from the Monell Center and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) alongside other research organizations have been able to differentiate a distinctive odor unique to the urine of Alzheimer’s patients. The research was however conducted on lab mice models.
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The odor signature in the urine of the mice models indicate that potential patients can be diagnosed through the urine odor signature before the manifestation of cognitive symptoms, enabling researchers to develop non-invasive tools for early diagnosis of the disease.
“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,” said study author Bruce Kimball, a chemical ecologist with the USDA National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) who is stationed at the Monell Center. “This finding may also have implications for other neurologic diseases.”
Identifying an early biomarker for Alzheimer’s would enable physicians to not only treat the condition much more effectively before the onset of cognitive decline and mental deterioration or hand tremors, but it will help doctors and family to map out a qualify lifestyle for the patient to follow for the future.
About 5.1 million Americans above the age of 65 are estimated to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, a common form of dementia whose progression cannot be stopped or reserved. At the advanced stage, patients suffer impaired thought and speech and rely on others for personal attention.
“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,” said study author Daniel Wesson, PhD, a neuroscientist at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports and it details how three mouse modeled to mimic Alzheimer’s condition were studied to determine how their urine odor profiles differentiate them from other mice without the condition. The Alzheimer’s mice models were dubbed APP mice, and then there were the control mice.
The researchers found that the urine odor change of the mice was not due to new chemical compounds but because of a shift in the concentrations of existing urinary compounds. The scientists were able to show that an underlying gene is responsible for this odor change in urine, and not some pathological changes in the brain.
This study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health and from the Spitz Brain Health Innovation Fund, Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation, and Alzheimer’s Association.