What is Oxytocin? - Chromatography Tests Levels in Dogs
Sep 11 2019
Oxytocin is a peptide and neurotransmitter, but it is so much more than that rather cold description. The ‘love hormone’ is how is appears in many popular magazine articles and newspapers, as it appears to be active when we are in love. But it is not just in humans that oxytocin is active - it is present in all mammals.
A paper published in the journal Molecules - Development and Validation of a Simple LC-MS Method for the Quantification of Oxytocin in Dog Saliva - discusses the role of the molecule in dogs and how a new chromatography method has been developed to quantify the levels of oxytocin. Let’s take a closer look at oxytocin.
The love hormone
Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter and a hormone. A neurotransmitter is simply a chemical that is released by a nerve to stimulate another nerve or a muscle. They allow signals to travel throughout the nervous system in the body. Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus in the brain. It is then transported to the pituitary gland. It is the hormone and neurotransmitter that is most associated with social interaction and plays a role in reproduction.
Research has shown that when people hug and kiss, their levels of oxytocin increase - which is where its moniker as the’ love hormone’ comes about. It plays a role in how we pair and bond with people - playing a part in how mothers and new-born infant’s bond, it is also linked with milk release. Levels of the hormone also increase during sex and is behind how we trust both individuals and groups. But oxytocin plays a complex role in how we behave, because the hormone reacts differently between members of a group. It allows us to favour some members and act against other members.
Testing dog’s saliva - it must be love
Researchers are interested to find out the role of oxytocin in other mammals, including dogs. Knowing more about the role of oxytocin in dogs would allow the pet care industry to understand more about a dog’s response to human interaction and help the relationship between dogs and their owners. The first step is to develop a method that allows oxytocin levels to be measured easily with a non-invasive test.
The researchers behind the paper referenced above developed a chromatography method that can measure oxytocin in a dog’s saliva. The method uses liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Chromatography is used to analyse many different animal samples - analysing horse samples is discussed in the article, A Marker-based Method to Detect Phosphorothioated Oligonucleotides in Equine Plasma Using Spectroscopic Analysis. The team report that the method they developed and validated is sensitive and reliable over a large concentration range. They conclude that:
‘The accurate and sensitive method reported here could be a promising tool to facilitate studies aiming to use OT as a biomarker for human–animal interaction studies.’
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