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British woman who can smell Parkinson's disease helps develop test

British woman who can smell Parkinson’s disease helps develop test

In the initial research phase, the test proved accurate in 95 percent of cases. The next stage is that it will be field tested on people who may have Parkinson’s disease. If successful, it will be the first test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Now the diagnosis is made on the basis of symptoms.

three minutes

According to scientists, the new test works very simply: a cotton swab is passed along the patient’s neck, and within three minutes it becomes clear whether he has Parkinson’s disease.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

According to the Parkinson’s Disease Society, there are about 63,500 people with Parkinson’s disease in the Netherlands, both men and women. In patients with this disease, nerve cells in the brain die. As a result, less dopamine is produced – the substance with which parts of the brain communicate with each other, giving the body commands.

Thus, the signals are not well transmitted in people with Parkinson’s disease. As a result, they have to think a lot about their movements, which becomes logically slower. Patients also experience tremors, muscle stiffness, and a “face mask” (a face devoid of expressions). But lack of initiative, poor speech, sleep problems, thinking problems, and mood disorders are also common.

The disease is progressive and incurable. However, there are treatments that can slow the disease process, such as medications and therapies.

source: Parkinson’s Association

Go back in time, to the moment when – as it turns out – 72-year-old Joy Milne first smelled Parkinson’s disease. It was with her husband Lis, who was 33 years old at the time. I could smell a change in his body, especially his neck and shoulders. “Musky air,” she called it herself according to British broadcaster Sky News.

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She didn’t look much into it, until twelve years later, Les was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and went with him to a peer group. Everyone with Parkinson’s disease had the same – in her opinion unpleasant – smell as mine.

When scientists at the University of Manchester learned of her striking observation, they asked her to cooperate. They wanted to know where this smell came from, and whether it could play a role in making a diagnosis.

The smell of shirts

But first, according to Sky News, they wanted to make sure Milne could smell if someone had Parkinson’s disease. That’s why they let her smell the shirts of people with or without Parkinson’s. Milne removed all Parkinson’s patients, but also one person from the group who they thought did not have the disease. Not long after, this person went to the doctor with complaints, and eight months after Milne picked that person’s shirt, he was diagnosed.

That was in 2012, three years before Liz died of illness. In 2019, researchers had a clue: They discovered that Parkinson’s disease causes very little change in patients’ fat. They have developed a test that makes it easy to detect this change. They hope to be able to use this test for people in the Manchester area within two years. If that works, it can also be used in other places.

“Incredibly important”

James Jopling, Scottish director of the UK’s Parkinson’s Association for Parkinson’s Disease, says this finding could make a big difference for people with the disease. “There is no testing now, so people have to wait months or years before making a diagnosis,” he says. Against the British broadcaster BBC. “The fact that this test can immediately provide them with the treatment and support they need and that researchers can use these results to research new treatment approaches is very important.”

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Milne also believes that her husband’s early diagnosis could not have made much difference to her and her family. “We would have spent more time together,” she told the BBC. “We would have traveled more. Perhaps we understood where Liz’s mood swings and depression came from.”

The fact that the development phase of the Parkinson’s test is over does not mean that Milne and her nose are retiring. She has already traveled to Tanzania and the United States to see if she can smell tuberculosis and cancer.