A new battery of tests has been developed at MGH in order to identify people who do not yet have clinical Alzheimer’s but are at increased risk for developing it. This is important because identifying these people allows for beginning treatment earlier and for research into new therapies for alleviating Alzheimer’s. This new way to identify patients who may develop Alzheimer’s relies on the fact that the brain degeneration associated with Alzheimer’s begins affecting the victim’s ability to distinguish odors long before there are observable changes in their memory powers. These tests do not require any invasive medical procedures. Earlier attempts to make use of this change in odor perception in pre-Alzheimer’s patients was stymied by the normal variation in odor perception. The current battery of test makes use of a comparison of how well they perceive odors in general compared with their ability to remember odors from one test to another. If this odor memory is poor compared with their overall odor perception, they are at increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
- 1“There is increasing evidence that the neurodegeneration behind Alzheimer’s disease starts at least 10 years before the onset of memory symptoms,”
- 2“The development of a digitally-enabled, affordable, accessible and non-invasive means to identify healthy individuals who are at risk is a critical step to developing therapies that slow down or halt Alzheimer’s disease progression.”
- 3It is well known that brain circuits that process olfactory information can be affected by Alzheimer’s disease, and several studies have documented a diminished ability to identify odors in affected individuals.
It is well recognized that early diagnosis and intervention are likely to produce the most effective therapeutic strategy for Alzheimer’s disease – preventing the onset or the progression of symptoms,” he says. “If these results hold up, this sort of inexpensive, noninvasive screening could help us identify the best candidates for novel therapies to prevent the development of symptoms of this tragic disease.
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