Predicting Alzheimer’s may be all down to the word-of-mouth! In the last week two separate reports, both by scientists of Indian descent in The US claimed that it may be possible to estimate the likelihood of Alzheimer’s among individuals simply by examining their saliva and teeth respectively.
First, Shraddha Sapkota, a neuroscience PhD scholar at the U of A claimed in her work conducted jointly with professor Roger Dixon and chemistry professor Liang Li at the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, that saliva may contain tell-tale Alzheimer signals even among individuals who are otherwise completely normal and showing no sign of memory or thinking deficiency.
Then, later in the week, a study conducted at the Mount Sinai Medical Center Teeth, said that iron buildup in teeth could enable scientists to say whether an individual is at risk of being afflicted by diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s in the future. Coincidentally, this study too was primarily authored by a scientist of Indian origin, Dr Manish Arora, who is exposure biology director at Mount Sinai.
Sapkota based her study on the well-acknowledged premise that Alzheimer’s typically coexists with other metabolic problems as also on the identification by her colleagues of substances in saliva that chraterized people with Alzheimer’s against those aging normally.
Said Sapkota “Although we’re in very early stages of the work and a great deal of work is still required, what is exciting is that saliva is easy to obtain other than being safe and affordable. Most important, its potential for foreseeing and following cognitive deterioration is promising.”
Scientists unanimously believe that that Alzheimer’s disease sets in decades before symptoms like loss of memory and thinking problems surface, at a time when people are still cognitively normal. Once the symptoms show up, the disease progresses rapidly and spins out of control. Still, despite many decades of relentless research, there are few viable ways available to diagnose much less predict the disease at an early stage, when people have now symptoms.
On another front, the Dr Arora led team at Mount Sinai have contended that early exposure to iron could result in the development of many neurodegenerative afflictions, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. In a new study they argue that analysis of teeth could be a good way of assessing the risk of an individual developing the disease.
How much exposure a person has had to iron through his childhood development can be assessed by looking for relevant slues hidden inn our teeth the Sinai researchers have found.
Said Dr Arora “the teeth record and register chronologically an individual’s exposure to iron through his development years—information that can be retrieved to assess and predict risks. It is similar to how we use rings of a trunk to measure the age of a tree.”
Formula foods are a common source of iron, which according to The European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (ESPGHAN), is not required at all by infants of normal weight. Research has shown that the obsession of parents with feeding their babies with iron may be largely unfounded and in the long run fraught with risks too. Doctors believe that the notion of most people being iron deficient is misleading and moreover the benefit of in terms of nutrition and development are in any case modest.
It is true that not all infants on formula food will develop Alzheimer’s or other such diseases. But as they grow up, the early exposure to iron could certainly be a contributory factor, which in combination with mental metabolism issues, may result in causing damage to brain cells over time.