Woman Discovers She Can Smell Parkinson’s Disease

Woman Discovers She Can Smell Parkinson’s Disease

Angela Markus

Once upon a time, scientists believed that the human nose could only detect 10,000 scents. But new research from Rockefeller University tested people’s sense of smell by using different mixtures of odor molecules. Today they believe that the nose can smell up to a trillion distinct scents. The incredible nose of one grandmother has encouraged scientists to research if a person’s odor can be used to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Joy Milne was able to sense a change in her husband’s odor ,which later led to his Parkinson’s diagnosis.

Parkinson’s is a disease of the central nervous system that causes progressive tremors, stiffness and slowness of movement. Currently, there is no cure. Mrs. Milne’s husband Les was diagnosed in 2012, but died this year at the age of 65, after living with Parkinson’s for 20 years.

The 65-year-old widow said, “I’ve always had a keen sense of smell, and I detected very early on that there was a very subtle change in how Les smelled. It’s hard to describe, but it was a heavy, slightly musky aroma. I had no idea that this was unusual and hadn’t been recognized before.”

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She made the link with Parkinson’s only after meeting other patients and happened to mention it to a scientist in conversation, prompting tests that found her sense of smell was accurate.

Parkinson’s UK, which is funding the research, hopes to find a link that could lead to earlier diagnosis. The charity estimates there are around 127,000 people with the disease in the UK.


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