This is stunning! Meet the woman who sniffed out her husband’s Parkinson’s disease… and now experts have developed the first test based on an odor that got them alerted
- Joy Milne snooped around on her husband 12 years before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s
- Her incredible nose was a huge asset to scientists as the “super-smeller.”
- She can diagnose strangers with the disease simply by sniffing t-shirts
Scientists have developed a test for Parkinson’s disease thanks to a grandmother’s super olfactory sense.
Joy Milne, 72, was able to sniff out Parkinson’s in her husband 12 years before he was diagnosed because his scent changed.
As a “super-smeller,” she’s been a huge asset to scientists who can diagnose strangers with the disease simply by sniffing t-shirts they’ve been wearing.
It was her incredible nose that discovered that the telltale smell of Parkinson’s comes most strongly not from sweaty armpits but from people’s necks and between their shoulder blades.
It was found that sebum – an oily substance secreted from the pores of the skin – contained ten compounds linked to Parkinson’s disease.
Joy Milne, 72, was able to sniff out Parkinson’s in her husband 12 years before he was diagnosed because his scent changed. She is pictured above with her late husband Les
Now, after further research, scientists have identified 500 such compounds, including “fatty acids” called triglycerides and diglycerides, and developed the first test for them. The test costs less than £20 and could be trialled in Greater Manchester within two years.
Researchers say Parkinson’s disease can be identified within three minutes of swabbing a person’s neck. Previously, there had been no definitive test for the disease, instead doctors based a diagnosis on a person’s symptoms and medical history.
Better testing and earlier diagnosis could help those affected keep their brain cells functioning, reduce jerky movements and slow down the disease.
Research leader Professor Perdita Barran of the University of Manchester, whose findings are reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, said: “If Joy hadn’t existed, none of this would have happened – not just because of her nose, but because of her persistence in thinking could her ability help people.
As a “super-smeller,” she’s been a huge asset to scientists who can diagnose strangers with the disease simply by sniffing t-shirts they’ve been wearing
“I was skeptical at first, but she was right. We have now swabbed 2,000 people and hope that in the future GPs can use this test to confirm if someone has Parkinson’s and get them to specialists quickly.’
Ms Milne, a grandmother of seven from Perth, Scotland, noticed that her husband smelled Les “musky” when he was 31.
She first noticed she could smell the disease in others while attending a support group meeting with her husband, a former doctor who died in 2015.
The retired nurse helped identify sebum as the main source of Parkinson’s scent, and now scientists have published the results of testing this oily substance on 79 people with Parkinson’s compared to 71 healthy people.
Ms Milne, who suffers from hereditary hyperosmia – an increased sensitivity to smells – said: “I promised my husband the night before he died that I would help research into Parkinson’s until there was a test for this cruel disease. I feel fortunate to have this ability to help people with early detection.”