A wife felt her husband’s Parkinson’s disease

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[EN VIDÉO] Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, behind Alzheimer’s disease.

Joy Milne is a 72-year-old nurse who lives in Scotland. She has a smell hypersensitive, a gift as much as an ordeal. Her hyperosmia prevents her from going to perfumeries, but it allowed her to detect a change in smell in her husband, Les, when he was then 33 years old, in 1986. A dozen years later later, the doctors diagnose him Parkinson’s disease.

Joy Milne’s Great Smell

This woman’s unusual ability to smell caught the attention of scientists at the University of Manchester. In 2016, they offered him to test your sense of smell on patients other than her husband. She smelled the t-shirts of twelve volunteers — six sick and six healthy — and was able to detect Parkinson’s disease with 100% success.

One of the volunteers considered sick by Joy was not sick at the time of the test but was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a few months later. In 2019, the same team showed that Parkinson’s disease has its own olfactory signature, rich in perillaldehyde and eicosane, two molecules which have a musky smell comparable to what Joy Milne smelled at her husband’s house.

Why does Parkinson’s disease affect people’s smell? In Manchester, scientists analyzed the olfactory molecules present on the skin of Parkinson’s patients and observed that they are different from healthy subjects, particularly in the sebum-rich areas against the forehead or the top of the back. Indeed, Parkinson’s disease can be associated with seborrhea, a more intense than normal production of sebum by the skin. The experiments done in 2019 were carried out on samples of sebum taken from the upper back of the volunteers.

A simple and non-invasive test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease

The composition of sebum could then be a biomarker of Parkinson’s disease. An interesting prospect but is it still necessary to develop a test for sebum in order to analyze it in a precise way. This is the subject of the latest research work by the Manchester team, again in collaboration with Joy Milne, published on September 7, 2022 in the journal of I’American Chemical Society.

Thanks to the mass spectrometry, swabs passed in the neck and back of patients are analyzed in a few minutes and allow to know the composition of the sebum and to see if it presents the characteristics of Parkinson’s disease. Tested on 150 volunteers, parkinsosians or not, throughout the United Kingdom, the test shows that the sebum of patients is indeed different from that of healthy subjects.

In addition to the odorous molecules identified in 2019, people with Parkinson’s disease have a sebum richer in triacylglycerides and diglycerides. These results are very preliminary and a test as simple as this to detect Parkinson’s disease will not be available for a long time. But if it materializes, it could allow patients to be better taken care of because the diagnosis of Parkinson’s often falls when the neurological damage is already significant.

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