Researchers sniff out clues to Alzheimer's disease

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Can you smell that? No? For some people, that could mean they are developing Alzheimer's.

Loss of smell could be an early indicator of the disease, according to researchers at the New York University School of Medicine.The loss of the sense is already a well-documented characteristic of Alzheimer's disease. Recently, those researchers discovered a clue as to why. In the brains of lab mice bred to develop Alzheimer's, researchers noticed that amyloid plaques, which typically accompany the disease, first appeared in the area of the brain that controls the sense of smell. Even the smallest amount of plaque in younger mice had a dramatic effect on the ability to remember scents, according to the report.

The discovery could lead to an inexpensive lab-based smell test that could help indicate the onset of Alzheimer's, researchers suggest. The full study appears in the Jan 13 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.