New Tools to Spot Alzheimer's: Eye, Smell Tests

Cues could be spotted early enough to reverse disease
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2014 4:17 AM CDT
New Tools to Spot Alzheimer's: Eye, Smell Tests
An Alzheimer's patient performs neurological cognitive tests during an appointment in Columbus, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Could tests as simple as a scratch-and-sniff smell quiz or an eye exam help detect Alzheimer's early enough to make a difference? Research to be unveiled at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference this week outlines several promising directions scientists are looking at in order to spot the disease when symptoms can still be halted or reversed, USA Today finds. In one test, researchers say a quiz to identify odors correctly predicted which people already suffering mild memory problems would go on to develop the disease, though they stress that not everyone with a lousy sense of smell is at risk.

Two other tests in the works involve scanning the eye for beta-amyloid, a protein which is a key Alzheimer's biomarker, CBS reports. Tests using curcumin, a chemical found in the spice turmeric, to highlight the protein spotted Alzheimer's patients with a high degree of accuracy. "What makes it unique is that the retina is actually an extension of the brain and so we think that a lot of the pathology that is occurring in the brain may also be occurring in the retina," a neurologist explains. Research released earlier this year found that a blood test could spot Alzheimer's years before symptoms develop. Current tests for Alzheimer's involve PET scans or spinal taps, and scientists say developing more effective tests to spot the disease earlier will be the key to discovering a way to stop it. (More Alzheimer's disease stories.)

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