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GEN News Highlights : Jul 14, 2014
Smell and Eye Tests May Permit Early Detection of Alzheimer's
Although the medical community insists that it needs ways to detect Alzheimer’s disease earlier, it still struggles with diagnostic techniques that are not only invasive, but expensive as well. Even worse, these techniques—which involve lumbar punctures or PET scans—are not readily available at many locations. Without early detection methods that are both easily applied and readily available, researchers will continue to have difficulty moving treatment and prevention trials earlier in the course of the disease. In addition, patients will be slow to take advantage of whatever preventative measures become available.
The barriers to early detection, however, may soon become less daunting now that researchers have found new ways to assess people for Alzheimer’s disease. At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2014 in Copenhagen, four studies were presented that point to new detection techniques. These techniques promise not only convenience, but also early detection of Alzheimer’s.
In two of the studies, the decreased ability to identify odors was significantly associated with loss of brain cell function and progression to Alzheimer’s disease. In two other studies, the level of beta-amyloid detected in the eye (a) was significantly correlated with the burden of beta-amyloid in the brain and (b) allowed researchers to accurately identify the people with Alzheimer’s in the studies.
The studies were as follows:
“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. “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,” Dr. Snyder added. “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.”
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