A woman whose husband died of Parkinson’s Disease may revolutionize the way the neurological disorder is diagnosed.
Joy Milne was tested by researchers after she claimed she could detect people suffering from Parkinson’s through a tell-tale odor.
“I recognized a change in his smell,” Milne told BBC, describing the new scent as “musky.” But, she chalked the new smell up to the long hours he was working.
It wasn’t until she was surrounded by other people suffering from the disorder at a charity event that she realized the change in her husband’s smell wasn’t a coincidence.
Scientists were intrigued when she mentioned her extraordinary ability and decided to test her.
Milne was able to accurately distinguish between subjects who have Parkinson’s and those who do not by smelling T-shirts worn by them in a study at Edinburgh University. Her sense of smell is so strong that she was adamant that a member of the control group had the disease as well.
“According to him, and according to us as well, he didn’t have Parkinson’s,” Dr. Tilo Kunath told BBC. “But, eight months later he informed me that he had been diagnosed.”
Researchers believe the change in scent is due to changes in skin in the early stages of Parkinson’s . They are hoping to find a molecular signature responsible for the odor.
If the molecular signature is detected, doctors may be able to diagnose the disease with a simple swab of a patient’s forehead.
“This study is potentially transformational for the lives of people living with Parkinson’s,” said Katherine Crawford, the director of the Scotland chapter of charity Parkinson’s UK. “Parkinson’s is incredibly difficult to diagnose.”
Milne’s husband died in June at the age of 65. She hopes her accidental discovery will make a lasting imprint to others suffering with the disorder.