Study: Skin odour could lead to early diagnosis for Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s can lead to excessive production of sebum, a natural waxy, lipid-based bio fluid that moisturises and protects the skin. — Picture from pexels.com
Parkinson’s can lead to excessive production of sebum, a natural waxy, lipid-based bio fluid that moisturises and protects the skin. — Picture from pexels.com

KUALA LUMPUR, March 22 — Scientists at the University of Manchester in UK have discovered small molecules in sebum (an oily secretion of the sebaceous glands) that are responsible for a unique scent in people with Parkinson’s.

This discovery could lead to the development of a much-needed early diagnosis test for the neurodegenerative disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement.

There is currently no definitive diagnostic test available for the disorder, but it is already known that Parkinson’s can cause excessive production of sebum.

The university’s honorary lecturer Joy Milne also observed that individuals with Parkinson’s had a distinct and unique smell which she first noticed in her husband Les many years before he was clinically diagnosed with the disorder.

In the study, recently published in the journal ACS Central Science, the researchers used mass spectrometry to identify the molecular compounds that give the condition this unique odour.

They then collected sebum samples from upper backs of more than 60 people, both with and without Parkinson’s, for analysis.

The study found that a number of compounds, particularly hippuric acid, eicosane and octadecanal, along with several other biomarkers for the condition were found in higher than usual concentrations on the skin of Parkinson's patients.

By considering the levels of these molecules found in the test samples, the research team has developed a model that can now identify and diagnose Parkinson’s at all stages of the condition.

Lead researcher Professor Perdita Barran, who is also the chair of Mass Spectrometry in the Chemistry School, said this could have a huge impact not only for earlier and conclusive diagnosis but also help patients monitor the effect of therapy.

“We hope to apply this to at risk patient groups to see if we can diagnose pre-motor symptoms, and assist with potential early treatment,” she added.


 

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