Summer
2012

Discovery

Reversing the Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

Evolutionary Glitch Behind Backbone Fractures Discovered


Daniel Wesson, PhDDaniel Wesson, PhD

One of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease has nothing to do with memory or cognition—it’s the loss of the sense of smell. Now researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have learned more about why the sense fails and how to get it back.

Their study¹ confirmed amyloid beta protein—the same material that leads to plaque buildup in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients—is behind the loss of smell. Researchers even restored smell in mouse models by giving them a drug to remove the plaque.

The team found just a tiny amount of amyloid beta—too little for brain scans to pick up—is enough to derail the sense of smell. They also showed amyloid beta plaque builds up in the brain’s olfactory system first, demonstrating the sense’s early susceptibility to the disease.

“The evidence indicates that we can use the sense of smell to determine if someone may get Alzheimer’s disease, and use changes in the sense of smell to begin treatments, instead of waiting until someone has issues learning or remembering,” says Daniel Wesson, PhD, assistant professor of neuroscience at the school and lead investigator. “We can also use smell to see if therapies are working.”

1 Research funded by NIH grant Nos. DC003906, AG037693, AG017617 and AG030482.