Sniffing out 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. Now, researchers report the identification of compounds that make up the signature odor of the disease with the help an individual who can detect Parkinson’s through smell. They report their findings in ACS Central Science.
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.
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