“All projections are for soaring increases in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, and the costs are staggering,” said Roger Dixon, University of Alberta professor of psychology.
The number of Canadians with dementia is rising sharply, and it costs $10.6 billion per year to care for them, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada.
Dixon teamed up with Liang Li, professor of chemistry, to tackle a huge problem — predicting Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms arise. “Our aim was then to try to identify early signals outside of the range of things that have already been tested,” Dixon said.
“Currently we don’t know what treatment or management is best for delaying full-blown Alzheimer’s disease,” Li said.
Li and Dixon examined saliva samples from 109 patients, grouped according to whether or not patients had Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, or neither.
Li provided the cutting-edge technological tools and Dixon provided high-quality saliva samples collected over several years.
The use of advanced technology was key. “Even three years ago we wouldn’t have been able to cast such a big net,” Li said. They used a powerful mass spectrometer to identify and measure more than 6,000 metabolites, which are chemical compounds in the body.
Li and Dixon identified three of these compounds as biomarkers — elements that can signal if something in the body has gone awry. They would be useful in identifying various stages of Alzheimer’s the same way that glucose, or blood sugar, is used to diagnose and treat diabetes.
Read the full story at the Edmonton Journal.