Can This Woman Smell Parkinson’s Disease?

(Telegraph) Woman who can smell Parkinson’s disease helps scientists develop first diagnostic test

ABritish woman who can smell Parkinson’s disease has helped scientists discover 10 molecules linked to the condition which could lead to the first diagnostic test.

Researchers at Manchester University first began to believe Parkinson’s might have a discernible odour when Joy Milne of Perth, Scotland, claimed she detected a change in the odour of her husband Les six years before he was diagnosed with the condition.

Mrs Milne, 67, claimed her husband’s smell changed subtly years before any difficulty with movement started to emerge. Mr Milne died in 2015 aged 65.

When researchers conducted tests with Mrs Milne they found she was able to identify people living with Parkinson’s from people without the condition by smelling skin swabs taken from both groups.

In one case, Mrs Milne identified an individual who had Parkinson’s but at the time had not been diagnosed with the condition, because they had no symptoms.

Now scientists have identified the 10 molecules which appear in high concentration of the skin swabs from Parkinson’s patients.

Prof Perdita Barran, chair of Mass Spectrometry in the School of Chemistry at Manchester University said: “It is very humbling as a mere measurement scientist to have this ability to help find some signature molecules to diagnose Parkinson’s. It wouldn’t have happened without Joy.

“For all the serendipity, it was Joy and Les who were absolutely convinced that what she could smell would be something that could be used in a clinical context and so now we are beginning to do that.”

Parkinson’s affects one in every 500 people in the UK, around 127,000 in total and is caused by the deterioration of neurons in a certain part of the brain. People with the condition are left struggling to move and even speak.

But there is currently no definitive test and symptoms typically only start to show once more than half of the relevant nerve cells in the brain have already been lost.

Not only is the delay in diagnosis upsetting for people, it also prevents them starting treatment to help with their Parkinson’s symptom

Mrs Milne was also tested at Edinburgh University where Dr Tilo Kunath confirmed her ability to detect Parkinson’s simply from smell alone.

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