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Smell And Eye Tests Would Detect Alzheimer’s Early

Update Date: Jul 14, 2014 10:58 AM EDT

A decreased ability to identify odors might indicate the development of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease, according to trials reported in the Alzheimer's Association International Conference. 

Another trial reported that an examination of the eye could indicate the build-up of beta-amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimer's in the brain. Beta-amyloid protein is the primary material found in the sticky brain "plaques" characteristic of Alzheimer's disease. 

"In the face of the growing worldwide Alzheimer's disease epidemic, there is a pressing need for simple, less invasive diagnostic tests that will identify the risk of Alzheimer's much earlier in the disease process," said Heather Snyder, Ph.D., Alzheimer's Association director of Medical and Scientific Operations, in the press release. "This is especially true as Alzheimer's researchers move treatment and prevention trials earlier in the course of the disease."

"More research is needed in the very promising area of Alzheimer's biomarkers because early detection is essential for early intervention and prevention, when new treatments become available. For now, these four studies reported at AAIC point to possible methods of early detection in a research setting to choose study populations for clinical trials of Alzheimer's treatments and preventions," Snyder said.

Presently, it is only possible to detect Alzheimer's late in its development, i.e, when significant brain damage has already occurred. Biological markers of Alzheimer's disease may be able to detect it at an earlier stage but the scans are expensive and are not available everywhere. 

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