As research into Alzheimer's disease advances, one of the major areas of focus is on methods of detecting the disease early on. Scientists have found that the biomarkers, or biological signs, of Alzheimer's can be detected years before cognitive decline begins. This could make it easier for individuals and families to be more prepared for the effects of the disorder.
A recent Canadian study presented at the annual Alzheimer's Association International Conference found that there are differences in the saliva of people experiencing normal aging, those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and those with Alzheimer's. The researchers analyzed the saliva of 35 volunteers who were aging normally, 25 with MCI and 22 with Alzheimer's. They found that there are several biomarkers in saliva that are able to distinguish between these groups.
Moreover, the increased presence of these biomarkers in saliva predicted the participants' degrees of cognitive decline. The greater the concentration of the associated biomarkers in the saliva of people with Alzheimer's disease, the lower their cognitive function.
Previously, tests for Alzheimer's required analyzing blood or urine. Not only is the saliva test easier to conduct, but according to the researchers, it was also able to detect more of the metabolites related to Alzheimer's than these tests.
"Saliva, which is a noninvasive biofluid, holds much promise for Alzheimer's research," said Shraddha Sapkota, MSc, of the University of Alberta, in an interview with Medscape News.
However, the saliva test is not quite ready for clinical use yet.
"We are at the very early stages and much more work is needed before we can predict when and if it will be used clinically," Sapkota said.