This 69-year-old lady is a former nurse from Perth (United Kingdom) and is able to recognize diseases thanks to her extraordinary sense of smell. An exceptional gift that is now being studied by the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology for research into early diagnosis of Parkinson’s.
Unfortunately, at the moment there is no cure for this disease, although it is possible to manage and slow down the symptoms effectively and allow the patient to lead a relatively normal life.
Now, thanks to Joy Milne’s ability – a condition called “hyperosmia” – there are good hopes for early diagnosis of Parkinson’s.
A study by the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology has found small molecules contained in a substance secreted by the skin, known as sebum, that are responsible for a unique scent in people with Parkinson’s. Joy Milne (an Honorary Lecturer at The University of Manchester) herself discovered this by chance. She had realized that her husband Les had a peculiar musk-like smell ten years before he was diagnosed with the disease. Then, working as a nurse in the hospital, she noticed that other patients’ skins also carried the same smell.
She was offered a collaboration with the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology in order to try and help better identify the molecules reponsible for this smell. To test her abilities, Milne underwent a test in which she had to examine several T-shirts, some belonging to sick people.
In addition to identifying exactly those who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Milne managed to point out one patient who, at the time, was healthy but 9 months later fell ill with the disease.
Currently Joy has been involved in the NoseToDiagnose project, coordinated by the chemist Perdita Barran to help develop a test capable of recognizing the disease at an early stage using one’s sense of smell.