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Detect disease by smell: hope for first diagnostic test for Parkinson's
Numerous researchers around the world are working on ways to detect Parkinson's disease earlier. The key to success could be a woman from Scotland. She could smell her husband's serious illness years before she was diagnosed. Your ability could help develop a method for the early detection of Parkinson's.
Second most common neurodegenerative disease in Germany
According to the German Society for Neurology (DGN), Parkinson's disease is one of the most common diseases of the central nervous system. According to the experts, an estimated 220,000 people live in Germany. Parkinson's disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's. Scientists at numerous research institutions around the world are working on ways to detect the disease earlier. The skills of a woman from the UK could be a key to success. The Scot smelled her husband's Parkinson's disease years before she was diagnosed.
Diagnosis difficult, especially in the early stages
According to health experts, the diagnosis of Parkinson's is difficult, especially in the early stages, since the disease begins with non-specific complaints such as worsening of the sense of smell (olfactory disorders), depression or indigestion.
“Only when the typical movement disorders start - the tremors begin, the movements become stiff and slow - can the doctor conclude that his patient has Parkinson's disease. Up to this point, however, nerve cell death has been going on for years, ”reported a group of German neurologists earlier this year.
For the first time, they managed to determine Parkinson's disease using a small skin sample.
"We have taken an important step closer to the major goal of detecting and stopping Parkinson's disease at an early stage," commented Prof. Dr. Günther Deuschl, Parkinson's expert from the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein in Kiel at the time in a message.
The skills of a woman from Perth, Scotland, could also help to diagnose the neurodegenerative disease earlier in the future.
Wife smelled her husband's illness ten years before diagnosis
There is currently no definitive test for incurable Parkinson's disease. The disease is diagnosed based on the symptoms.
British scientists are now hoping, according to a BBC report, for the first diagnostic test for Parkinson's disease.
The breakthrough could be thanks to the skills of a woman from Perth (Scotland): Joy Milne can recognize the disease by the smell.
According to the BBC, her husband Les was diagnosed with Parkinson's at the age of 45. But about ten years earlier, Joy had noticed an unusual musky smell in her partner.
"When he was about 34 or 35 years old, we had a very turbulent time and I kept saying to him: You didn't shower, you didn't brush your teeth properly," Joy told the "BBC".
"It was a new smell - I didn't know what it was. I didn't stop telling him that and he got pretty upset about it. So I had to be quiet, ”said the Scottish woman.
Exceptional skills tested
After joining a group that supports Parkinson's patients, the retired nurse met several people who also shared the characteristic smell.
She shared this with scientists at a conference. Tilo Kunath from Edinburgh University then conducted some tests on the woman and confirmed her skills.
According to the report, Joy received twelve unmarked T-shirts to smell - six worn by Parkinson's patients and six by volunteers without the disease.
She identified the six T-shirts worn by the patients, but was also able to identify the smell on a shirt worn by a person in the control group.
Three months later, she was told that she was diagnosed with Parkinson's.
"She told us that this person had Parkinson's before he knew it, before anyone knew it," said Dr. Kunath.
"So I really started to think that she could recognize Parkinson's simply by a smell that was transferred to a T-shirt that the person with Parkinson's was wearing."
Joy's husband died in 2015 at the age of 65. Her last promise to him was to have her special skills examined and find out how she could help.
Dr. Kunath has sought the help of Prof. Perdita Barran, a chemical analysis expert from the University of Manchester, to try to isolate the actual molecules that make up the smell that Joy can smell.
In fact, the first series of results showed that ten specific molecules play a role.
As Prof. Barran said, it was Joy and Les "who were absolutely convinced that what they could smell would be something that could be used in a clinical context and now we are beginning to do just that." )