The University of Florida is seeking companies interested in commercializing a smell (olfactory) test for diagnosing early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Approximately one in eight Americans over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s disease, a number that could grow to an estimated 34 million worldwide by 2025. While there is no cure for this debilitating form of dementia, many experimental trials are examining ways to prevent its progression. Early detection will allow doctors, patients and caregivers to develop more effective treatment plans. Clinical trials would also greatly benefit from an inexpensive test that accurately and reliably detected Alzheimer’s early in the disease course. Existing diagnostic tests are expensive, time-consuming, and lack sensitivity and specificity. They also require highly trained personnel or equipment not readily available in many areas. Researchers at the University of Florida have discovered a quick and inexpensive test for diagnosing early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Utilizing a measuring tool and a pure odorant (such as peanut butter), a healthcare provider can quickly and easily determine if a patient has decreased sense of smell in only one nostril, a sign that can indicate greater loss of function in the mesial temporal lobe of the corresponding hemisphere, suggesting the presence of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
A quick, inexpensive smell test for detecting early-stage Alzheimer’s disease
- Detects Alzheimer’s disease early, allowing for interventions that delay the onset of disability
- Tests for symptoms specific to Alzheimer’s disease, ensuring an accurate diagnosis
- Made from widely available, inexpensive materials, keeping costs low
- Uses non-invasive methods, maintaining patient comfort and privacy
Studies of grey matter volume loss consistently find significantly greater mesial temporal lobe atrophy in the left, versus the right, hemisphere during early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Within each hemisphere, the olfactory system remains ipsilateral, on the same side, from the olfactory epithelium within the nose to olfactory cortex within the mesial temporal lobe. Olfactory cortex is the first area of cortex affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Recognizing that patients may, therefore, experience an asymmetrical reduction of odor detection sensitivity in the earliest phase of the disease, a researcher at the University of Florida developed a simple, noninvasive test inspired by Davidson and Murphy’s Alcohol Sniff Test. The new test measures odor detection one nostril at a time to identify any hemispheric asymmetries in function. It also substitutes peanut butter, or other pure odorant, for alcohol. A pure odorant, such as peanut butter, is used in place of alcohol to avoid detection by the trigeminal nerve and ensure accurate measurement of the olfactory nerve and its cerebral connections. Measuring a patient’s ability to detect an odor from a distance, one nostril at a time, will help healthcare providers diagnose early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.