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Could sight and smell tests predict Alzheimer's?

Could sight and smell tests predict Alzheimer's?
15th July 2014

Simple eye and nose tests could prove to be effective ways to determine whether or not an individual is likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.

For the former, scientists exploited the fact that the eye is essentially an extension of the brain and inspected to see if amyloid-beta proteins were present. These are generally regarded as the hallmark sign of the degenerative disorder and amass many years before any memory loss symptoms reveal themselves in the individual. 

Initial trials of two different ways of examining the eye proved to be successful, with both healthy patients and those with a build-up of the protein being correctly identified. 

It is now hoped this method can be developed and tested further to help to ascertain as early as possible if individuals are likely to develop the disease.

Furthermore, a loss in the ability to detect certain smells has been linked with the onset of this form of cognitive decline, with two tests revealing this could be an effective measure. 

All four of these tests are encouraging because they provide simple and non-invasive ways to check patients as they grow older. The majority of studies are being targeted at trying to track the disease in its early stages, because if identified too late, there is little that can be done in terms of cures. 

Dr Simon Ridley from Alzheimer’s Research UK said: "A quick, cheap, non-invasive test to detect Alzheimer’s would be an important step in helping people to receive an early diagnosis.

“This research is promising, but it is too soon to determine whether these types of tests will be useful for diagnosis of dementia," he said. 

Director of research at the Alzheimer's Society Dr Doug Brown said finding effective ways to detect the early stages of the condition could be "a game changer", but called for further study to consolidate the findings. 

All four of these tests were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen.

Read more about Barchester's dementia care homes.