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Get a whiff of this: Smell test could sniff out serious health problems

A new medical device in development by University of Cincinnati researchers may sniff out olfactory disorders that could be an early warning of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other problems outside the typical sensory loss associated with aging. The Sniff Magnitude Test (SMT), an invention of UC Psychology Professor Robert Frank and Professor Emeritus Robert Gesteland of the UC Department of Cell Biology, is now under further development with the WR Medical Electronics Company in Stillwater, Minn. The company will manufacture and market the test.

The Sniff Magnitude Test project, a creation that was seven years in the making, was awarded a total of $1,340,098 from the National Institutes of Health in developmental funding. UC Psychology Professor Robert Frank says that in the near future, UC researchers will begin testing five different prototypes of the SMT built by WR Medical Electronics. Currently, Frank says an earlier model of the SMT is being tested in a high-profile clinic in Germany as well as at the University of Pennsylvania. Frank says the SMT customer base would be primarily otolaryngologists and neurologists.

“The whole test is based on the very simple observation that when you sniff and you detect a smell, you take a smaller sniff than if you inhaled and didn’t detect a smell,?Frank explains. “For someone with normal sense of smell, the size of the sniff when detecting an odor is cut in half. For someone who cannot detect odor, the size of the sniff for just air and the size of the sniff for an odor are the same.?

In humans, Frank says the sense of smell is one of our less robust senses. He says it’s more susceptible to harm because there is less neurological machinery in the brain devoted to processing the sense of smell. “So, that’s the reason it might be acting a little bit like the canary in the mineshaft. Because it’s more fragile, when you have insult to the brain, it may be sensitive to loss earlier in th
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Source:University of Cincinnati


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