New research suggests that small molecules present in the sebum secreted by skin could give rise to a characteristic scent in individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD).
It is already known that PD could result in excessive sebum production. Joy Milne an Honorary Lecturer at the University of Manchester determined that individuals with PD had a distinct odour, the intensity of which varied with the progression of the disease. She first noticed this scent in her husband several years before he was diagnosed with PD.
In order to identify the molecular compounds responsible for the characteristic odour, researchers at the University of Manchester analysed the volatile components from the sebum of individuals with PD using mass spectrometry. Joy Milne was asked to reconfirm the odour of these compounds.
The analysis showed the presence of hippuric acid, eicosane and octadecanal, indicative of altered neurotransmitter levels in patients with PD, along with other biomarkers for the condition. With the help of molecular levels in the test samples, researchers were able to develop a model which could potentially identify and diagnose PD at all its clinical stages.
Professor Perdita Barran, one of the study authors said: "Now we have proved the molecular basis for the unique odour associated with Parkinson’s we want to develop this into a test."