New research shows that an early detection of Alzheimer’s may be available through tests of our senses, especially eyes and smell. While this may seem strange, it is actually logical. The senses of sight and smell are directly connected to the brain. Unlike our sense of touch that is routed through our spinal column, the sense of sight is directly connected to the brain through the optic nerve.
Four studies being presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, strengthen earlier evidence that the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease might show up in the eyes and nose.
That could mean earlier treatment, and could give people a chance to plan, said Maria Carrillo, vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association.
Two used fluorescent compounds to detect deposits of the protein amyloid in the eye.
The authors of these studies believe the amount of amyloid found is a good indicator of how much is present in the brain, where it forms sticky clumps in those with Alzheimer’s.
Two other studies suggest a loss in the ability to detect odors could be an early sign of the disease.
Dr Simon Ridley, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “It is difficult to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease accurately and, in many cases, by the time the symptoms have developed, damage has already been going on in the brain for a number of years.
“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 .”
More research is reported in the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association that discusses a possible blood test for Alzheimer’s.
A BLOOD test which will be a “major step forward” in fighting Alzheimer’s could be available in just two years, scientists say today.
Scientists have identified a unique combination of protein molecules in the blood which give an early warning that a patient is likely to develop dementia. This finding will help them devise a test to diagnose people quicker and could lead to new treatments, they say.
A spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Society in the United Kingdom hailed the study, saying: “Finding a way to detect dementia before symptoms develop would revolutionise research.”
The test, likely to cost between £100 ($171.00 U.S.) and £300 ($514.00 U.S.), can show with almost 90 per cent accuracy which individuals suffering from mild memory loss will develop Alzheimer’s within a year.
Professor Simon Lovestone said drugs trials currently fail because they take place too late when Alzheimer’s is too far advanced. “If we could detect people earlier, it might be that the drugs which are developed are more effective,” he said. “If we could treat the disease during the phase where there are no symptoms we could have a preventative therapy.”
Prof Lovestone, of Oxford University, said it could be between two and five years before a blood test could replace brain scans and lumbar punctures. He said: “At the moment all I can say to someone with signs of memory loss is, ‘Come back in a year and we’ll see if it has progressed’ and that is grim, that’s horrible.”
A blood test could pave the way for more breakthroughs in treating dementia
In the largest study of its kind, researchers analysed 26 proteins previously linked to dementia in 1,000 patients. They found 16 molecules present in people with mild cognitive impairment. A specific combination of 10 molecules were identified in patients who developed Alzheimer’s within a year.
An Alzheimer’s Society (UK) spokesman said the test has so far shown just 87 per cent accuracy, meaning that one in 10 people would get an incorrect result. “Only through further research will we find answers, so we will watch the progress of this with interest,” he said.
For more information on clinical trials in the United States, go to www.alzfdn.org for a list of ongoing trials.