POTENTIAL biomarkers have been identified for the indication of mental fatigue using urinary analysis, offering a novel approach for monitoring exhaustion in workers. With the use of metabolomics, scientists have identified fatigue-related biomarkers for future research to assess their predictive value. This could be used to tackle the problem of mental fatigue in ‘24/7 industries’, such as aviation and healthcare, that has been linked to significant economic losses in the USA, for example. Fatigue among clinicians also poses concerns for patient safety.
Zhenling Chen, Civil Aviation Management Institute of China, Beijing, China, and his colleagues looked at air traffic controllers (ATCs) in civil aviation who were considered susceptible to mental fatigue due to high workloads and a stressful work environment. For the study, urine samples were collected from 20 male ATCs before and after an 8-hour shift. Metabolites in the urine were detected using chromatography and mass spectrometry. The analysis showed 20 potential candidates for fatigue-related biomarkers.
To rule out normal metabolism difference among the 20 candidates, the team compared another group of 25 male ATCs with a control group. The control consisted of 23 executive office male staff with a light workload, little work-related stress, and no reported mental fatigue after a day’s work. After analysing the final urine samples from each of the groups, three metabolites were identified as potential biomarkers: N2,N2-dimethylguanosine, n-acetylarylamine, and α-CEHC. They were screened-out in the ATC groups; the first two metabolites were downregulated and the third upregulated.
In their paper, the team wrote: “Our research, for the first time, detected a range of metabolites that represented the metabolic regulation of before and after mental fatigue and illustrated the ability of metabolomics to identify the potential biomarkers related to mental fatigue.” They also concluded that identifying metabolites through urine analysis can provide a potential monitoring tool for establishing a profile to ensure aviation safety.
Jack Redden, Reporter