The Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) is looking into the possibility that people suffering from Parkinson's disease – a disorder of the central nervous system that causes shaking and tremors in one's movement – may omit a unique scent because of sebum, an oily material found in human skin. This oil may be the key to early detection of the illness.
Scientists took to heart the observation by Les Milne, the wife of a Parkinson patient, who complained that his scent changed six years before he was officially diagnosed. She described the smell as woody and musky.
With the help of specialists in detecting smells, the leaders of the study may be close to finding an early detection method to help people realize they have the illness.
The leaders of the study, Prof. Perdita Barran, Prof. Roy Goodacre and Dr. Monty Silverdale, hope to "pinpoint which molecular changes in the skin might be producing the unique odor found in Parkinson sufferers," Barran said.
If a method could be created to sniff out Parkinson, it could prove to be highly effective and non-invasive.
At Haifa University, researchers were able to create a computerized system that can examine handwriting and infer whether or not the person has Parkinson's. The Manchester study was carried out with the help of Parkinson UK and the Michael J. Fox Foundation – created and led by the famed Back to the Future actor who developed an unusually early onset of Parkinson's disease.