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Smell test 'could help to detect early Alzheimer's'

A reduced ability to identify different odours could be an indication that a person is developing the early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, according to new research.

Two studies, which had their findings presented to the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2014 in Copenhagen, all suggested a diminishing sense of smell was likely to point towards the development of cognitive impairment, progressing to Alzheimer's itself.

Meanwhile another two reports indicated a test for the build-up of a specific protein in the eye could also be used in the future as a potential tool for diagnosing the disease.

Beta-amyloid is believed to accumulate in the brain years before other symptoms of Alzheimer's - like memory loss and similar cognitive issues - present themselves. 

This material is found in the so-called brain "plaques" that can be typical among patients and when certain levels of the protein are recorded in the eye, this could also help professionals identify when a person is in the initial stages of the disease.

Alzheimer's Association director of Medical and Scientific Operations Dr Heather Snyder said: "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."

According to official figures, around 500,000 people are diagnosed with the disease in the UK. While the exact cause is unknown, being of an increased age, having experienced previous severe head injuries and a family history of the condition are some of the factors associated with having a higher chance of developing Alzheimer's.

However, it's hoped that further research into biomarkers could help boost early detection rates in the future, which would help to maintain a patient's quality of life for a longer period of time. At the moment, symptoms are only identifiable at a later stage, when significant damage to the brain has already occurred.ADNFCR-438-ID-801735062-ADNFCR

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