An experiment that uses earwax to measure levels of the stress hormone cortisol could “transform the diagnosis and care of millions of people with depression or stress-related conditions,” said the scientists.
The researchers believe that the test, which can be performed at home without clinical supervision, may also be able to measure the amount of glucose or Covid-19 antibodies that accumulate in the earwax.
They say this method is a cheap and effective way to measure chronic cortisol levels, when compared to other methods such as using hair samples.
While the blood, urine, and saliva tests can be used to measure cortisol, Dr. Andres Herane-Vives, the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, says these samples are only possible according to monitor the short-term level, not the chronic cortisol level.
“Sampling cortisol is notoriously difficult, since hormone levels can fluctuate, so one sample may not reflect primary,”; said Herane-Vives, lead researcher for the study published in the journal Heliyon. determine a person’s chronic cortisol level. Furthermore, the sampling methods themselves can be stressful and affect the results.
“However, cortisol levels in earwax seem more stable, and with our new device it’s easy to sample and test quickly, cheaply and efficiently.”
The test device developed by his team resembles a cotton swab but has a brake to prevent it from going too deep into the ear and causing damage.
The tips contain organic material, with the tested solution being the most efficient and reliable for sampling, the researchers said.
The pilot study involved a team of researchers from the UK, Chile and Germany who recruited 37 study participants to compare different cortisol sampling techniques. The researchers also analyzed the hair and blood samples of the participants.
Earwax samples were found to contain more cortisol than hair samples, and the ear picking technique is the fastest and cheapest method.
Herane-Vives and his team are also investigating whether the device could be used to measure glucose levels from earwax samples, to monitor diabetes and even potentially Covid-19 antibodies. .
“Following this successful pilot study, if our equipment continues to be more thoroughly monitored in larger trials, we hope to transform diagnosis and care for millions,” he said. people with depression or cortisol-related conditions like Addison’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome, and likely many other conditions. “