A woman who can “smell Parkinson’s disease” helps scientists come up with a revolutionary diagnostic test

A woman who can “smell Parkinson’s disease” helps scientists come up with a revolutionary diagnostic test

A woman who can “smell Parkinson’s disease” helps scientists come up with a revolutionary diagnostic test

A woman who could “smell Parkinson’s” helped scientists develop a test that detects the disease.

The test lasted years after academics realized Joy Milne could smell the disease.

The 72-year-old from Perth, Scotland has a rare condition that gives her a heightened sense of smell.

She noted that her late husband Les developed a different smell when he was 33 – about 12 years before he was diagnosed with the disease – which leads to parts of the brain being progressively damaged over the years.

Ms. Milne, nicknamed “the woman who smells Parkinson’s,” described a “musky” aroma, different from her normal smell.

His observation piqued the interest of scientists, who decided to research what he could smell and whether this could be exploited to help identify people with the neurological condition.

Years later, academics from the University of Manchester took it one step further by developing a test that can identify people with Parkinson’s disease using a simple cotton swab that slides down the back of the neck.

Possible launch of the SSN

Researchers can examine the sample to identify disease-related molecules to help diagnose if someone has the disease.

While still in the early stages of research, scientists are excited about the prospect of the NHS being able to implement a simple test for the disease.

There is currently no definitive test for Parkinson’s disease, with a diagnosis based on the patient’s symptoms and medical history.

If the new skin swab is successful outside the laboratory conditions, it could be implemented to achieve a faster diagnosis.

Read more:
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Ms. Milne said it “was not acceptable” for people with Parkinson’s to have such high levels of neurological damage at the time of diagnosis.

“I think it needs to be detected much earlier, like cancer and diabetes,” he said. “Early diagnosis means much more efficient treatment and a better lifestyle for people.”

He added: “It has been found that exercise and diet change can make a phenomenal difference.”

She said her husband, a former doctor, was “determined” to find the right researcher to examine the link between odor and Parkinson’s, and in 2012 they searched for Dr Tilo Kunath at the University of Edinburgh.

Snort T-shirt

Dr. Kunath teamed up with Professor Perdita Barran to examine Ms. Milne’s sense of smell.

Scientists believed that the scent could be caused by a chemical change in the skin’s oil, known as sebum, triggered by the disease.

In their preliminary work, they asked Ms. Milne to smell the shirts worn by people who have Parkinson’s disease and those who don’t.

Ms. Milne correctly identified the shirts worn by Parkinson’s patients, but she also said that one of the group of people without Parkinson’s smelled like the disease: eight months later the person wearing the shirt was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

The researchers hoped the discovery could lead to the development of a test to detect Parkinson’s, assuming that if they were able to identify a unique chemical signature in the skin linked to Parkinson’s, they would eventually be able to diagnose the condition by simple skin swabs.

In 2019, researchers from the University of Manchester, led by Prof Barran, announced that they had identified disease-related molecules found in skin swabs.

And now scientists have developed a test using this information.

Right treatment faster

The tests have been successfully conducted in research laboratories and are being investigated whether they can be used in a hospital setting.

If successful, the test could potentially be used in the NHS so that family doctors can refer patients for Parkinson’s tests.

The results, which were published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, detail how sebum can be analyzed with mass spectrometry – a method that weighs molecules – to identify disease.

Some molecules are only present in people who have Parkinson’s disease.

The researchers compared the swabs of 79 people with Parkinson’s to a healthy control group of 71 people.

More than 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease, including the musician Ozzy Osbournecomedian Sir Billy Connolly and actor Michael J. Foxwho was diagnosed at the age of 29.

Degenerative disease is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world. Has a variety of symptoms including tremors – particularly in the hands – gait and balance problemsslowness and extreme stiffness in the arms and legs.

Professor Barran said there is currently no cure for this, but confirmatory diagnostics would allow patients to get the right treatment and medications more quickly.

Read more:
Scientists take a “vital step” towards finding a cure for Parkinson’s

He said exercise and nutritional changes would also be recommended, but “more critically, it will allow them to have a confirmed diagnosis to actually know what’s wrong with them.”

He added: “There are currently around 18,000 people in Greater Manchester waiting for a neurological consultation and just to clear that list, without new people joining, it will take up to two years.

“Of these, 10-15% are suspected of Parkinson’s. Our test would be able to tell them if they did or if they didn’t (they have Parkinson’s) and allow them to be referred to the right specialist.

“So, at the moment, we are talking about being able to direct people to the right specialization in a timely manner, and that will be transformative.”

Can you smell other diseases?

Ms. Milne is now working with scientists around the world to see if she can smell other diseases like cancer and tuberculosis (TB).

“I have to go shopping very early or very late because of people’s perfumes, I can’t go into the chemical department of the supermarket, so yes, a curse sometimes, but I’ve also been to Tanzania and done research on tuberculosis and research on cancer in the United States – only preliminary work.

“So it’s a curse and a boon.”

She said she can sometimes smell people with Parkinson’s while at the supermarket or walking down the street, but medical ethicists told her she can’t tell her.

“Which doctor would accept a man or a woman to walk in and say ‘the woman who smells like Parkinson’s told me I have it’? Maybe in the future, but not now.”

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