Science & Technology
Woman is able to smell Parkinson's disease
By T.K. Randall
September 30, 2016 · 10 comments
Parkinson's seemingly produces a unique and detectable scent. Image Credit: CC 2.0 Andrew Mason
Joy Milne from Perth, Australia has developed the unique ability to sniff out the debilitating condition.
Parkinson's disease has become an ever-growing problem over the last few years with an estimated 1 in 500 people suffering from the condition which causes shaking, difficulty walking, slowness and a range of other physical, cognitive and behavioral problems.
No definitive diagnostic process for Parkinson's currently exists, but recently scientists at Edinburgh University were intrigued by a woman who appeared to be able to detect the disease with her nose.
Joy Milne first realized that she had this unique talent after detecting a distinct and unusual scent off her own husband more than six years before he was eventually diagnosed.
"His smell changed and it seemed difficult to describe," she said. "It wasn't all of a sudden. It was very subtle - a musky smell. I got an occasional smell."
It wasn't until she started meeting other sufferers through the Parkinson's UK charity however that she realized that she could pick up the same unusual scent in them as well.
Scientists who tested her abilities were extremely impressed.
"The first time we tested Joy we recruited six people with Parkinson's and six without," said Dr Tilo Kunath. "We had them wear a t-shirt for a day then retrieved the t-shirts, bagged them and coded them. Her job was to tell us who had Parkinson's and who didn't. Her accuracy was 11 out of 12."
Incredibly though, the 12th case offered up an unexpected twist that would surprise everyone.
"She got the six Parkinson's but then she was adamant one of the 'control' subjects had Parkinson's," said Dr Kunath. "But he was in our control group so he didn't have Parkinson's."
"But eight months later he informed me that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's. So Joy wasn't correct for 11 out of 12, she was actually 12 out of 12 correct at that time."
Efforts are now underway to figure out how exactly Joy's amazing sense of smell is able to detect the disease and to turn that in to a reliable way of diagnosing patients.
Source: BBC News
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