Measurement and Testing

Can Petrol Help Diagnose Dementia Sooner?

Sep 06 2017 Comments 0

Scientists are making progress with a wide range of diseases – both physical or mental. But, as of yet, there’s no major breakthrough cure for dementia. As a result, dementia has become the biggest cause of death in England and Wales. Ok – it’s an unfortunate situation – but what has that got to do with petrol? Read on to see how petrol could be linked to earlier dementia diagnosis.

What’s that smell?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and the form that most people are familiar with. Or maybe not so familiar. It’s still a disease that scientists don’t know that much about. However, one potential discovery is that changes in smell could indicate that a person is suffering from the disease in its early stages.

It’s thought that damage to the brain may occur up to twenty years before noticeable symptoms appear. And scientists from Canada’s McGill University think the olfactory neurons may be one of the first parts of the brain to suffer.

Testing the theory

To test this idea, researchers found 300 ‘high risk’ participants. These were people prone to developing Alzheimer’s because one of their parents had suffered or was suffering from the disease. The participants were given ‘scratch and sniff’ cards with a variety of scents, including lemon, bubblegum and petrol.

They found that participants who had other biological links to Alzheimer’s were also the ones who had difficulty identifying the different smells. It suggests that difficulty to distinguish between the strong smell of petrol and others like bubblegum and lemon could be a sign of Alzheimer’s in its earliest stages.

A minor breakthrough for Alzheimer’s

“This is the first time that anyone has been able to show clearly that the loss of the ability to identify smells is correlated with biological markers indicating the advance of the disease,” explains one of the study’s authors, Marie-Elyse Lafaille-Magnan. “For more than 30 years, scientists have been exploring the connection between memory loss and the difficulty that patients may have in identifying different odours.”

It seems a smell test may be on the horizon for Alzheimer’s diagnosis. And according to John Breitner, director of the Prevention of Alzheimer’s at McGill, this research could have significant impact for sufferers. “If we can delay the onset of symptoms by just five years, we should be able to reduce the prevalence and severity of these symptoms by more than 50 per cent.”

As well as a breakthrough using the smell of petrol, there has been significant progress for petrol analysis itself. The article ‘VUV PIONA+ Improves Accuracy of Hydrocarbon Reporting in Gasoline’ explores how new product solutions can reduce errors and make fuel analysis much simpler.

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