Pathological changes in olfactory neurons in patients with Alzheimer's disease

Nature. 1989 Feb 23;337(6209):736-9. doi: 10.1038/337736a0.


Alzheimer's disease is a central nervous system disorder characterized by the presence of neurofibrillary tangles, neuritic plaques and dystrophic neurites in susceptible areas of the brain. Investigation of the mechanism and development of the disease has been hampered by the lack of an animal model and the inaccessibility of neural tissue during the illness. Deficits in odour detection and discrimination are among the signs of Alzheimer's and previous anatomical studies suggest that olfactory pathways may be involved early in the illness. Neurons in the olfactory epithelium, which are of central origin, are relatively accessible for biopsy and could be used as a source of living nerve cells for the study of Alzheimer's disease if they can be shown to have characteristics of this disease. As these neurons have the unusual property of arising from stem cells throughout the life of the organism, they are good candidates for the development of cell cultures or cell lines which may express the disorder from living patients. We report here that nasal epithelium tissue taken at autopsy shows unique pathological changes in morphology, distribution and immunoreactivity of neuronal structures in patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Central Nervous System / pathology*
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Epitopes / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / analysis
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Olfactory Marker Protein
  • Olfactory Pathways / pathology*


  • Epitopes
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • OMP protein, human
  • Olfactory Marker Protein