With the help of an individual who can detect Parkinson's disease through smell, researchers are coming up with a new diagnostic tool for the disease. The study published in ACS Central Science aims at identification of the compounds that make up the signature odor of the Parkinson's disease.
Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that leads to progressive brain cell death and extensive loss of motor function. Despite much research being conducted on this disease, there are no definitive diagnostic tests currently available.
Ancient physicians used scent as a diagnostic tool, and although olfactory tests are not common in modern medicine, diseases such as diabetes are often associated with a particular smell. However, there has been little evidence to tie scent to neurodegenerative disorders. Enter Joy Milne, a "Super Smeller" who can distinguish the unique odor of Parkinson's, which she can detect in subjects' sebum before clinical symptoms appear. This waxy, lipid-based biofluid moisturizes and protects the skin, particularly on the forehead and upper back. Excessive production of the substance is a known symptom of Parkinson's disease. So, Perdita Barran and colleagues wanted to determine what chemicals make up the scent in sebum that Milne is picking up on in Parkinson's patients so that they can eventually develop a diagnostic test for the disease.