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Olfaction and Alzheimer's Disease Are Connected
June 23, 2009 18:09

Healthy brain compared to brain with Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease, the plague of human civilization, appears to have strong connection with sense of smell. Russian scientists found out that parosmia or olfaction disorder can be the first sign of this terminal disease. Researchers from the Institute of Cell Biophysics developed a model, which allows early diagnostics and prevention of Alzheimer's disease.

Today Alzheimer's disease is among most serious problems, facing scientists of the world. Significant funding and great efforts of scientists and medics cannot prevent growing number of patients with this diagnosis. Alzheimer's disease is detected in about 1% of inhabitants in developed countries and in 15% of people, who are older than 65 years. This disease is the third most common reason for death after cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Modern neurology has several important parts, and one of them is studying factors, causing neurodegeneration in brain. Alzheimer's disease is a bright example of neurodegeneration. This pathological process leads to total degradation of personality and memory loss in elderly people, as well as deterioration of spatial orientation. Modern medicine has over 10 theories, trying to explain the nature of this disease. Most popular theory links beginning of Alzheimer's disease with accumulation of a specific protein in brain. This protein, called amyloid beta peptide, is toxic for neurons nervous cells.

Beta amyloid plaque
This protein does exist in an organism under normal conditions, but its concentration is extremely low. When the disease starts, this protein accumulates in brain in the form of plaques, similar to those of atherosclerosis. Initial stage of Alzheimer's disease is often notable for olfaction disorders. Russian scientists decided to find out whether link between smell deterioration and neurodegeneration existed. Alzheimer's disease progresses very slowly, thus a reliable model of this disease would have been a great help to medics.

Researchers investigated consequences, appearing in animals, which olfactory bulbs were removed, and found that defects in olfactory system formed same symptoms as Alzheimer's disease. Scientists explain this effect with direct links of olfactory system with a hippocampus, an important part of brain. The fact that hippocampus deterioration is a central stage in Alzheimer's disease development, is beyond question. Experiments revealed that when a link between an olfactory bulb and hippocampus is broken, biochemical shifts appear, which increase the amount of beta amyloid plaques, thus promoting the disease.

Olfaction disorder is the very first sign of Alzheimer's disease. The model, created by Russian scientists, allows not only diagnosing this disease, but also performing search of new pharmaceuticals. Now medics can examine olfaction system of a patient, while there are no visible signs of Alzheimer's disease, and advise some preventive measures. At this stage a patient has about 3-4 years to cope with his disease.

Source: Voice of Russia

Kizilova Anna


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