A recent study in the Journal of Neuroscience has provided a new possibility for detecting Alzheimer’s disease (AD) early: loss of the ability to smell. The research used mice that were genetically engineered to develop the signature amyloid plaques that occur in AD. In the course of the research, the scientists noticed that the plaques developed in a region of the brain associated with smelling, and that the mice with plaques had more trouble learning or distinguishing odors.
Why should we care? Oftentimes certain behavioral symptoms of AD are seen well before onset, early in life. In fact, this study showed that the mice who were only 3 months old–in human years, equivalent to a young adult–exhibited this difficulty with smelling. Thus it may well be possible to detect a person’s predilection for AD years or decades before the brain substantially degenerates, allowing for significantly earlier detection of the disease with the benefit of being able to make proactive lifestyle and treatment decisions. The researchers also point out that it could potentially be a relatively inexpensive, non-invasive, and simple way to diagnose AD, compared with current diagnostic methods.
You can read a press release with more information about the study at Science Daily.