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Could Alzheimer’s Smell Tests Provide Early Diagnosis?

White Mouse
Image via Pixabay

New research involving the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia has found that Alzheimer’s disease (AD) not only has its own smell, but it can be detected by both mouse and machine — in mice, that is.

The researchers behind the study, which was published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, believe that their findings could lead to so-called Alzheimer’s smell tests capable of identifying early stages of Alzheimer’s in humans.

Scientists now believe that is likely AD treatments will prove more effective when applied during the early stages of the disease, before it has a chance to cause irrevocable damage. Subsequently, the hunt for an early identification system has been increasingly prioritized, Philly.com reported.

In light of the ability of some animals, such as dogs, to smell some ailments, such as cancer, the study’s authors–which include USDA National Wildlife Center chemical ecologist Bruce Kimball and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine neuroscientist Daniel Wesson–wondered whether or not the same could be said for Alzheimer’s disease. In order to determine whether or not this was the case, they devised a test incorporating genetically altered mice, urine and a machine.

The mice were genetically altered to exhibit aspects of the disease and their urine, alongside that of normal mice, was tested – first by mice and then later by machine. In both instances, the urine of the genetically altered mice proved to be identifiable. The mice were able to smell it — lingering by it longer than the urine of normal mice — and the machine was able to detect it through mass spectral interpretation.

Kimball suspects that the mice may have been detecting differences so subtle that the machine was unable to detect them.

As for when a working test for humans might arise, Kimball was quoted by The Inquirer as having said with a laugh that he “doesn’t even want to go there,” but it would take “a considerable amount of time.”

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