The Woman Who Can Smell Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is caused by the loss of nerve cells in the brain.  Symptoms can include tremors and affected movement.  Parkinson’s is second only to Alzheimer’s in neurodegenerative illnesses, afflicting one percent of all individuals over the age of 60.  But no two people experience Parkinson’s the same way, and there is no definitive medical test to determine if you have the disease.


Remarkably, there is a woman in the UK who can smell the disease.  Joy Milne of Perth, Scotland, has an unusually acute sense of smell.  She is able to identify Parkinson’s victims by a distinctive odor on their clothes.

This has generated a great deal of excitement in the medical community.  Anatune, an analytical solution provider (and Agilent reseller), has blogged about Joy and her unique ability.  Anatune and Professor Purdita Barran (Manchester Institute of Biotechnology) are collaborating with Joy to identify the specific chemical odors associated with Parkinson’s.  Their equipment includes an Agilent GC/Q-TOF.  The hope is that this work will lead to a clinical test for the disease.

Joy is also featured in a 30-minute BBC documentary, “The Woman Who Can Smell Parkinson’s.”  You can view it on iPlayer until January 15th.

UPDATE: The BBC documentary is also available on YouTube.

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