Jan 16, 2016 10:00 AM EST
An emerging research uses the odor of urine to detect whether a person is likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. Scientists found that changes before onset of dementia include a unique smell of urine.
The latest discovery of this biomarker will potentially help doctors diagnose Alzheimer's disease even before it starts to manifest mental deterioration. Aside from that, it can also make way for possible treatments to slow down disease progression.
According to study author Dr. Bruce Kimball from the US Department of Agriculture and the Monell Chemical Senses Center, while previous studies concentrated on body odor changes brought by external sources like vaccines and viruses, this recent breakthrough found evidence that distinct urine odor can result from significant brain changes in Alzheimer's, which may also have indication in other neurological illnesses.
The experiment utilized three separate mouse models called amyloid precursor protein (APP) mice. They injected the mice with human genes linked with mutations of a particular gene called amyloid precursor protein. Scientists then activated the genes with drugs.
APP mice then developed accumulation of amyloid brain plaques similar to that in Alzheimer's disease and started manifesting signs of dementia. Subsequently, study authors also found that APP mice produce urinary odor signatures different from that of the control mice, of which scientists believe is likely due to the shift of concentrations of the urinary compound.
Furthermore, researchers were also able to detect the unique odor difference even before amyloid started building up. They then suggested that the distinct odor might be pointed to the genes' presence instead of the actual development of Alzheimer's itself.
Currently, the study is still in the proof-of-concept stage, co-author Dr. Daniel Wesson from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine said. However, they are hoping it will one day pave way as a human biomarker.
Alzheimer's disease is an irreversible, progressive brain illness that is affecting over 5 million Americans age 65 years and above. So far, there is neither a definitive test nor treatment to detect, slow down and stop the disease's progression.