Salivary Biomarkers May Indicate Alzheimer’s Risk

Dentistry Today


Biomarkers in saliva may identify those at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to investigators at the Beaumont Research Institute. With no cure and few reliable diagnostic tests, Alzheimer’s affects more than 5 million Americans at a cost of $259 billion and will affect 15 million to 16 million by 2050, reports the Alzheimer’s Association. However, the researchers believe these biomarkers may lead to early diagnosis and improved treatment before brain damage occurs and dementia begins, potentially improving the lives of millions.

“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 most effective. Presently, therapies for Alzheimer’s are initiated only after a patient is diagnosed, and treatments offer modest benefits,” said researchers Stewart Graham, PhD. 

Metabolomics is used in medicine and biology for the study of living organisms. It measures large numbers of naturally occurring small molecules, called metabolites, present in the blood, saliva, and tissues. The pattern or fingerprint of metabolites in the biological sample can be used to learn about the health of the organism.

“Our team’s study demonstrates the potential for using metabolomics and saliva for the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Graham. “Given the ease and convenience of collecting saliva, the development of accurate and sensitive biomarkers would be ideal for screening those at 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.”

The study participants included 29 adults in 3 groups: mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and a control group. After specimens were collected, the researchers positively identified and accurately quantified 57 metabolites. Some of the observed variances in the biomarkers were significant. From their data, the researchers were able to make predictions as to those at most risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

“Worldwide, the development of valid and reliable biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease is considered the number one priority for most national dementia strategies,” said Graham. “It’s a necessary first step to design prevention and early intervention research studies.” 

The study, “Diagnostic Biomarkers of Alzheimer’s Disease as Identified in Saliva Using 1H NMR-Based Metabolomics,” was published by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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