Changes in the way the eyes and nose work might indicate the onset of Alzheimer's disease, according to the results of four trials published in July. Decreased ability to identify odours and build-up of protein in the eye could both indicate changes in the brain consistent with the condition, said a report delivered by the Alzheimer's Association at the charity's annual conference, in Copenhagen.
Impaired olfactory ability was found to be "significantly associated with loss of brain cell function and progression to Alzheimer's", while levels of beta-amyloid detected in the eye enabled researchers to accurately identify people with the disease.
Currently, Alzheimer's can only be detected when significant brain damage has already occurred, so it is hoped that identifying symptoms using biological markers will help doctors diagnose and treat the ailment more effectively.
"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 process," said Heather Snyder, PhD, Alzheimer's Association director of Medical and Scientific Operations. "More research is needed in the very promising area of biomarkers, because early detection is essential for early intervention and prevention, when new treatments become available."