Image credit: The Boston Herald

By following their noses, one Massachusetts General Hospital doctor and his research team have discovered an innovative test that may be a promising 15-year head start in the early-detection battle against Alzheimer’s disease.

According to a report in the Boston Herald, the inexpensive test, which was developed in part by Dr. Mark Albers, a neurologist at MGH and principal investigator of the study that discovered it, was a simple one. For 30-minutes, 183 participants were given a smell test of various, familiar substances, including garlic and freshly cut grass (different scents were used to help address the fact that olfactory sensitivity varies greatly from person to person). The participants’ ages were between 60 to 80 years old—a range that is in line with when Alzheimer’s symptoms might typically begin to present.

What the test found was that 20 percent of participants showed signs of “olfactory deficiencies.” The same participants also tested positive for precursors of Alzheimer’s, including the APOE-e4 gene, reports the Herald. The correlation could mean the test will allow patients and their doctors get a huge head start on Alzheimer’s disease, including getting on treatment early to slow its effects.

“There’s evidence the disease is present 10 to 15 years before people develop memory symptoms, and what the field is trying to do is find accessible, affordable ways to identify those individuals. If you could intervene early, you could put off symptoms of onset and have a big effect on the impact of the disease on society,” Dr. Albers told the Herald.

To read the full story, please visit the Boston Herald.

Topics: Technology, Prevention, Innovation

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