Joy Milne can smell Parkinson's Disease. It's amazing but true. Her unique talent may forever change the way that Parkinson's is diagnosed.
Joy, a 65 year old woman from Scotland, discovered her ability because of her late husband's battle with the disease. Joy noticed a faint musky change in the scent of her husband, Les, many years prior to his diagnosis. She did not put two-and-two together, though, until she joined Parkinson's UK and became more involved with others also suffering from the disease. She noticed that they, too, had the same faint odor about them. While attending a talk, she happened to mention her observations to a scientist. She piqued the curiosity of the scientist,Dr. Tilo Kunath, a Parkinson's UK Fellow at the School of Biological Sciences at Edinburgh University, who ended up testing her abilities. The results were amazing.
According to Dr. Kunath, speaking to The BBC:
The first time we tested Joy we recruited six people with Parkinson's and six without. We had them wear a t-shirt for a day then retrieved the t-shirts, bagged them and coded them. Her job was to tell us who had Parkinson's and who didn't. Her accuracy was 11 out of 12. We were quite impressed.
While those results are pretty outstanding, Dr. Kunath adds:
She got the six Parkinson's, but then she was adamant one of the 'control' subjects had Parkinson's. He was in our control group, so he didn't have Parkinson's. According to him and according to us, as well, he didn't have Parkinson's. But eight months later, he informed me that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's. So Joy wasn't correct for 11 out of 12, she was actually 12 out of 12 correct at that time.
Parkinson's UK is now funding further research headed by Dr. Kunath. The hope is that earlier diagnosis of the disease will be possible with a simple skin swab, thus leading to earlier treatment and planning for patients.