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Alzheimer's Disease Does Not Pass the Smell Test

by Renee Marcus on 8/6/14, 11:35 AM

Smell Tests May Detect Alzheimer’s Disease Early

Until now, the only way to diagnose a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is by clinical examinations that use memory tests and questions to find how well a patient function cognitively.

Scientists know that pathology related to Alzheimer’s appears in the brain decades before patients manifest Alzheimers disease smell testmemory symptoms. Now, researchers are closing in on ways to diagnose earlier than when symptoms appear.

According to Science Daily, four recent research studies suggest that a decreased ability in the sense of smell and eye examinations to find a buildup of beta-amyloid may allow for the early diagnosis of this disease.

Though scientists have not yet unlocked the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease, they suspect that the protein beta-amyloid is part of the process of the degradation of brain cells causing cognitive impairment.

Daniel Wesson, assistant professor of neuroscience at Case Western Reserve and lead investigator for a study, which The Journal of Neuroscience published, remarked about his study on smell:

“Understanding smell loss, we think, will hold some clues about how to slow down this disease.”

Most importantly, this new research, which supports earlier research linking loss of the sense of smell to Alzheimer’s, shows that this loss of smell is probably reversible. Wessen explained the importance of this:

“The evidence indicates we can use the sense of smell to find if someone may get Alzheimer’s disease, and use changes in sense of smell to begin treatments, instead of waiting until someone has issues learning and remembering. We can also use smell to see if therapies are working.”

Until now, some Alzheimer's treatments slow loss of memory, but there is no cure. Without a cure, the value of early detection diminishes, as most people do not want early detection if there is no treatment. This new research is the first step in discovering how beta-amyloid spreads inside the brain and finding ways of slowing or stopping its spread

 

Sources:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/key-to-detecting-alzheimers-early-could-be-in-the-eye-1405253029, http://www.alzinfo.org/05/articles/diagnosis-and-causes/loss-smell-early-alzheimers-sign-reversed-lab, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/279626.php, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140713155512.htm

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