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A urine test for Alzheimer's disease

January 15, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Associate Editor
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You might be able to pee in a cup to see if you have Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers detected early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in mice based on their urine odor signature. They hope their findings, published in the journal "Scientific Reports" lead to development of a non-invasive urine test for humans. There is currently no definitive diagnostic test for Alzheimer's.

"While this research is at the proof-of-concept stage, the identification of distinctive odor signatures may someday point the way to identify Alzheimer’s at early stages," says co-author Dr. Daniel Wesson, a neuroscientist at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine to Medical News Today.

Researchers from the Monell Chemical Sense Center in Philadelphia and the U.S. Department of Agriculture bred mice to have an abundance of amyloid plaques in the brain to resemble people with Alzheimer’s disease. Using behavioral and chemical analyses, they found each of the three separate strains they tested had different odor signatures that were distinctly different from the control.

The test and control groups had different concentrations of the same compounds. Differences in odor signature did not vary significantly with age, and preceded detectable amounts of amyloid plaque build-up in the brains, the researchers say. That could mean the odor signature is tied to the underlying gene rather than the progress of changes in the brain.

"Now we have evidence that urinary odor signatures can be altered by changes in the brain characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease," says author Bruce Kimball, PhD, a chemical ecologist with the USDA National Wildlife Research Center based at the Monell Center. "This finding may also have implications for other neurologic diseases."

Read the study here.  

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