How stressed are you? Your earwax may be the answer.
A new method of collecting and analyzing earwax for stress hormone levels cortisol There can be a simple and inexpensive way to track the mental health of people with depression and anxiety.
Cortisol is an important hormone that spikes when a person is stressed and decreases when they relax. In the short term, hormones are responsible for the “fight or flight” response, so it’s crucial for survival. But cortisol is frequently elevated in people with it Depression and anxiety, and persistently high levels of cortisol can have a negative effect immune system, blood pressure and other bodily functions.
There are other disorders associated with cortisol abnormalities, including Cushing̵7;s disease (caused by overproduction of cortisol) and Addison’s disease (caused by lack of cortisol production). People with Cushing’s disease have abnormal fat accumulation, weakened immune systems, and brittle bones. People with Addison’s disease have dangerously low blood pressure.
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Monitor cortisol levels
There are many ways to measure cortisol: in saliva, in blood, even in hair. But saliva and blood samples were obtained only for a short time, and cortisol fluctuated significantly during the day. Even experiencing a needle aspiration needle can increase stress and thereby increase cortisol levels. Hair samples can deliver a snapshot of cortisol in months instead of minutes, but hair analysis can be expensive – and some people don’t.
Andrés Herane-Vives, a lecturer at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and the Institute of Psychiatry at University College London, and his colleagues turned to the ear instead. Earwax is stable and resistant to bacterial infections, so it can be easily transferred to the lab for analysis. It may also hold a record for cortisol levels that last for weeks.
But previous methods of getting earwax have involved pricking a syringe ear and rinse with water, which can be a bit painful and stressful. So Herane-Vives and his colleagues developed a gauze pad that, when used, is less stressful than a Q-tip. The gauze has a barrier around the handle so people cannot stick too deeply into their ears and damage their eardrums, and a sponge at the end to remove earwax.
In a small pilot study, researchers collected blood, hair, and earwax from 37 participants at two different times. At each collection site, they sampled earwax with a syringe from one ear and used a new self-picking method from the other. The researchers then compared the reliability of cortisol measurements from self-picking earwax with other methods.
They found that cortisol was more concentrated in earwax than in hair, making it easier to analyze. Self-picking earwax analysis is also faster and more effective than syringe-based wax analysis, which must be dried before use. Finally, earwax showed more consistent cortisol levels than other methods, which are more sensitive to fluctuations caused by things like recent alcohol consumption. Participants also reported that self-picking was more comfortable than with the syringe method.
The researchers reported their findings on November 2 in the journal Helix. Herane-Vives is also setting up a company called Trears to market new methods. In the future, he hopes that earwax could also be used to monitor other hormones. Researchers also need to follow up on studies of Asian individuals who were excluded from this pilot study because a significant amount produced only dry, flaky earwax instead of wet wax, wax form.
“Following this successful pilot study, if our device continues to be more thoroughly monitored in larger trials, we hope to transform diagnosis and care for millions of people with depression. or cortisol-related conditions like Addison’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome and many others, “he said. said in a statement.
Originally published on Live Science.