Changes in urine provide early indication of Alzheimer's disease in mice

A new study from the Monell Center, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has found differences in urine odour in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease.

The odour signature appears in urine before significant development of Alzheimer-related changes in the brain, suggesting that it may be possible to develop a non-invasive method for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers used three different types of mice which have been genetically altered to mimic the brain and behavioural changes seen in Alzheimer's disease. Using both behavioral and chemical analyses, the researchers found that each strain of mice produced urinary odour profiles that could be distinguished from those of control mice. 

Responding to this, Doug Brown, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said:  

“The findings of this study are interesting, but it is too early to tell if they can help us to develop ways to identify people with Alzheimer’s disease before memory symptoms appear. The test was carried out on genetically altered mice, which do not fully replicate several of the important changes seen in the brains of people with dementia, so  we cannot yet predict that we will see the same urine changes in people.

“Dementia is the biggest health challenge facing us today, and timely diagnosis is critical to providing the best treatment and care. Although this is an interesting approach to the problem of identifying Alzheimer’s before memory symptoms appear, it is too early to tell whether this could be a valid way to diagnose the condition in people.”