Joy Milne: The Woman Who Can Smell Parkinson’s Disease

Joy Milne has a unique sense of smell that allows her to detect early signs of Parkinson's disease, potentially leading to breakthroughs in early diagnosis and treatment.

Joy Milne Story

Joy Milne possesses a remarkable ability that has made waves in the scientific community: she can detect Parkinson’s disease through her sense of smell.

Originating from this unique skill is a tale that intertwines personal experience with groundbreaking research.

Personal Journey

Joy Milne’s life changed when she noticed a distinct smell emanating from her husband, Les Milne, long before any clinical diagnosis of Parkinson’s was made.

Her keen sense of smell picked up on a subtle but distinct change that was later found to be linked with the onset of Parkinson’s, a revelation that occurred a startling 12 years before Les was formally diagnosed with the condition.

Partnership with Researchers

Inspired by Joy’s unique ability, researchers, including Dr. Tilo Kunath of the University of Edinburgh, appealed to her for assistance in discovering a diagnostic tool for early detection.

This collaboration led to Dr. Kunath partnering with Professor Perdita Barran at the University of Manchester, to validate Joy’s observations and investigate the underlying chemical changes.

Early detection is crucial as it can involve timely interventions, such as changes in diet or exercise, which can significantly impact health.

Joy, a retired Scottish woman, has thus had a profound effect on the field, potentially paving the way for a confirmatory diagnostic that could save numerous lives by enabling doctors to identify the disease in its nascent stages.

Science of Scent in Disease Detection

A lab setting with test tubes, petri dishes, and scientific equipment.</p><p>A diagram of scent molecules and disease detection process on a whiteboard

The potential to diagnose diseases through scent has been revolutionized by a blend of chemistry and advancements in medical technology.

This capability has profound implications for early detection and offers a supportive complement to existing diagnostic methods.

The Chemistry of Diagnosis

At the core of scent-based diagnosis lies the principle that diseases can alter the body’s chemistry, thus changing a person’s odor.

This is primarily due to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted through bodily excretions.

For instance, researchers have identified unique compounds in the sebum of those with Parkinson’s, pointing to a distinctive scent profile.

Joy Milne, a woman with an unusually hyper-sensitive sense of smell, detected changes in her husband’s scent years before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, leading scientists to investigate further.

Advancements in Medical Science

This observational evidence has propelled the development of diagnostic tests, such as those utilizing mass spectrometry to analyze scent compounds from t-shirts worn by individuals, or skin swab techniques that can help detect Parkinson’s. Spearheaded by scientists like Prof Perdita Barran, strides in this field could potentially lead to breakthroughs in how diseases such as tuberculosis, cancer, and diabetes are diagnosed.

Especially notable is the role of scent detection in the context of neurological conditions, which could eventually facilitate the development of confirmatory diagnostic procedures with a high degree of accuracy.