Joy Milne has the ability to smell Parkinson’s, an ability she discovered while caring for her late husband, who has died from the cruel condition. This ability of the 65-year-old resident of Perth, Scotland, has spawned new research into the possibility of Parkinson’s being detected by an odor even before the onset of symptoms.
According to MSN Health and Fitness News on October 23, Milne said that she detected a change of odor coming from her husband Les in the years before he developed any symptoms. She could smell something different on her husband long before he was diagnosed with this debilitating disease.
Milne said, “I’ve always had a keen sense of smell and I detected very early on that there was a very subtle change in how Les smelled. She describes the smell as something she hadn’t recognized before in her husband as the odor was heavy and it had a slight musky whiff about it.
According to the Sidney Morning Herald, Milne’s husband worked long hours as an anesthesiologist and she thought that the odor she detected was from sweat. With that odor came other symptoms, such as he grew increasingly tired. The diagnosis wasn’t made for her husband until six years after she first noticed the change in the way that he smelled.
When this occurred she had no idea that the odor was unusual. Researchers put Milne’s nose to the test and it was discovered that she could identify Parkinson’s sufferers by sniffing the T-shirts they had slept in. She has earned the nickname “Super Smeller” by the researchers for her uncanny ability.
Amazingly she got 11 out of 12 correct when sniffing the shirts of the research subjects and the one that she did get wrong was a T-shirt from a member of the control group, who didn’t have Parkinson’s. But Milne was adamant she smelled the odor on that shirt and six months later that person was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, bringing Milne’s detection rate to 100 percent.
This is exciting for the researchers because if an odor can be linked to a Parkinson’s patient very early on, this could have a huge impact on the condition for that patient. Finding a Parkinson’s patient before symptoms surface would allow them to start a drug regiment early, one that could slow or even arrest the disease. There is no current drug that is able to do that today.
For their research, 200 people with or without Parkinson’s are being recruited to take part in this study. Their skin will be swabbed and both Milne’s nose and a machine that can analyze the swabs at the molecular level will be put to the test.
This will help scientist discover if this condition triggers changes in the oily substance secreted by skin called sebum. If researchers can devise a test that can do the same thing as Milne’s nose, then an early detection test for Parkinson’s is just around the corner. For now, it’s Milne’s nose, but tomorrow it could be as simple as testing a swab!