A Scottish woman claims she can actually smell Parkinson’s disease, and scientists believe her announcement may not be off-base.
Joy Milne, of Perth Scotland, has declared that around 6 years before her husband Les was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease she could actually sense that something was wrong, because his fragrance had suddenly become different.
“His smell changed and it seemed difficult to describe. It wasn’t all of a sudden. It was very subtle – a musky smell”, declared Milne, in an interview with BBC Scotland.
It was the same scent that the woman identified among other people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, when she joined the non-profit organization Parkinson’s UK.
The woman’s husband eventually passed away in June, at the age of 65, following a 20-year old period of battling the disease.
Recently, Milne’s claims have sparked interest among researchers at Edinburgh University, who wanted to test the validity of her professed abilities.
An experiment was conducted, which included 6 volunteers that actually suffered from Parkinson’s disease, and 6 others who hadn’t been known to have this condition.
The subjects were required to wear a t-shirt for an entire day, and afterwards the clothing items were collected, bagged and coded, so that Milne could smell them.
The team of researchers, led by Tilo Kunath, a Chancellor’s Fellow at the school of biological sciences at Edinburgh University, wanted to see if the woman could indeed detect a distinct odor among the participants affected by Parkinson’s.
Surprisingly enough, Milne was proven correct in all of her diagnoses. Initially, scientists had considered she had guessed reliably on 11 out of 12 cases, because on one occasion she had claimed a person suffered from the nervous system disease although he had actually volunteered as part of the control group.
However, 8 months later, during a routine medical examination, it was proven that the man actually did have Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers now speculate that the skin of those who develop this condition might go through certain changes before more definite symptoms of Parkinson’s actually appear.
It may be that Milne’s heightened sense of smell could identify those modifications, and this could mean that soon a new diagnostic test using this molecular signature might be created to provide better screenings for this condition.
Such early and effective detection using a simple swab could allow more people who have developed this degenerative disorder to find out that they suffer from Parkinson’s and begin treatment as soon as possible.
For now, a follow-up study is being prepared, which will assess Milne’s accuracy in identifying Parkinson’s patients among a group of 200 volunteers.
The research is sponsored by Parkinson’s UK, a charity whose primary mission is to find a cure or at least some better treatments for this condition, while improving the lives of those affected by it.
Nowadays, Parkinson’s disease is encountered among over 1 million Americans, and more than 5 million people worldwide.
The most common symptoms associated with this condition include tremors, impaired balance, speech and swallowing issues, hypokinesia (slowness of movement), executive dysfunction and limb rigidity.
One in 100 people older than 60 suffer from this motor system disorder, but it can even be diagnosed among younger patients.
At the moment there is no reliable biomarker or test for this condition, and this results in numerous diagnosis errors. Therefore, Milne’s remarkable abilities might prove instrumental in finally developing an accurate predictive tool.
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