Early detection is essential for early intervention and prevention, when new treatments become available, Snyder noted.
Clinically, at this time it is only possible to detect Alzheimer’s late in its development, when significant brain damage has already occurred.
Beta-amyloid protein is the primary material found in the sticky brain “plaques” characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
In a study led by Devanand, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Centre in the US, researchers investigated a multi-ethnic sample of 1,037 non-demented elderly people in New York City and found that in 757 subjects who were followed, lower odour identification scores on a smell identification test were significantly associated with the transition to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Odour identification deficits were associated with the transition to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and with cognitive decline in cognitively intact participants, in our community sample,” Devanand noted.
In a separate study researchers found that amyloid levels detected in the retina were significantly correlated with brain amyloid levels as shown by PET (Positron emission tomography) imaging.
The results of the studies were reported Sunday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.