Home Health A compound in urine tells early Alzheimer’s?

A compound in urine tells early Alzheimer’s?

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A compound in urine tells early Alzheimer’s?

A compound present in urine would seem to have what it takes to be used in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, even in its early stages. According to a study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, people with Alzheimer’s would have significantly higher levels of formic acid in their pee, and the amount of this substance would increase as the disease progressed. If the results were confirmed, it would mean having a tool for early screening campaigns for a form of dementia which, although incurable, can however be slowed down and managed better when diagnosed in time.

Silent progression. Alzheimer’s disease can develop many years before symptoms of full-blown and irreversible dementia emerge, and this is the window of time in which pharmacological interventions appear to be most effective. Unfortunately, very often the diagnosis comes when the patient has now undergone a significant decline in cognitive faculties.

Part of the problem is the lack of routine Alzheimer’s screening campaigns that can identify patients most at risk early. Current diagnostic tests are either very expensive (such as PET or positron emission tomography, a type of brain imaging reserved for already debilitated patients) or invasive (such as cerebrospinal fluid analysis) or still inaccurate (such as research of some Alzheimer’s biomarkers in the blood).

I study. A urine test is a non-invasive, inexpensive and suitable tool for large-scale prevention campaigns and some biomarkers that could signal Alzheimer’s disease have already been identified in the past. However, most of them do not seem capable of showing the pathology when it is still in the early stage. A team of scientists coordinated by Yifan Wang, a gerontologist at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, involved 574 participants, healthy or suffering from Alzheimer’s in different degrees of progression, and analyzed their urine and their blood as well as subjecting them to psychological evaluations.

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A faithful track. Formic acid is a metabolic product of formaldehyde, a substance present in the brain, blood, urine and other tissues of the human body and whose presence in pee had already been linked to Alzheimer’s disease in the past. Scientists have noticed that in patients affected by Alzheimer’s, the levels of formic acid in the urine were much higher and that they were more or less abundant depending on the progression of the disease.

Abnormal amounts of formic acid were already visible in patients in the early stages of dementia, those with subjective cognitive declinein which the memory seems impaired according to one’s perception while still postponing within intervals considered non-pathological.

Additionally, when formic acid levels were compared to other known Alzheimer’s biomarkers found in patients’ plasma (the liquid fraction of blood), it was possible to better understand how far along the disease progressed each was.

The relationship between Alzheimer’s and formic acid will be explored in other studies, but the substance could prove to be a useful tool for future diagnoses and become a special surveillance in routine screening in adulthood and advanced age.

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