On the nose

Woman who can smell Parkinson’s disease may revolutionize how it is diagnosed

Joy Milne, a 65-year old Scottish woman has a very unique talent that has the potential to revolutionize the way Parkinson’s is diagnosed: she can smell the disease. Years before her husband Les, who died in June this year, was diagnosed with the debilitating disease, she started noticing a subtle, “musky” smell. Milne only established the link when her husband was diagnosed, and she joined the charity Parkinson’s UK, where she met people with the same distinct odor.

She mentioned the strange “coincidence” to scientists at a talk and, who later tested Joy by letting her smell the T-shirts of 12 people – six who had been diagnosed with the disease, and six who hadn’t. Not only did she correctly identify the 6 people who had already been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, she also managed to detect the smell on a person from the “control group,” who was only diagnosed with the disease 8 months later.

Impressed by these results, researchers are now hoping to find the “molecular signature” of the odour (which they believe is caused by changes in the skin) and are hoping it could lead to a simple diagnostic test that could be “potentially transformational” for people living with Parkinson’s, which remains difficult to diagnose.

Read the full story at BBC.

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