Sugar released from the bloodstream into the brain during septic shock triggers memory loss and cognitive dysfunction.
A test developed by researchers uses a urine sample to check concentrations of a type of sugar — glycosaminoglycans — that ordinarily coat cells lining blood vessels and other surfaces inside the body. In septic shock, the body sheds fragments of these sugars, and the team found that higher concentrations portend death.
“This sugar is getting into the hippocampus, and it shouldn’t be in there,” said Robert Linhardt, professor of biocatalysis and metabolic engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and lead author of the study. “We actually think this is rewiring memory in the hippocampus, and it’s causing memory loss. Neural circuits are being disrupted or broken or connected in the wrong way.”