Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease that presents with significant motor symptoms, for which there is no diagnostic chemical test. We have serendipitously identified a hyperosmic individual, a “Super Smeller” who can detect PD by odor alone, and our early pilot studies have indicated that the odor was present in the sebum from the skin of PD subjects. Here, we have employed an unbiased approach to investigate the volatile metabolites of sebum samples obtained noninvasively from the upper back of 64 participants in total (21 controls and 43 PD subjects). Our results, validated by an independent cohort (n=31), identified a distinct volatiles-associated signature of PD, including altered levels of perillic aldehyde and eicosane, the smell of which was then described as being highly similar to the scent of PD by our “Super Smeller”.
Drupad K. Trivedi,† Eleanor Sinclair,† Yun Xu,†,⊥ Depanjan Sarkar,† Caitlin Walton-Doyle,†
Camilla Liscio,‡ Phine Banks,‡ Joy Milne,† Monty Silverdale,§ Tilo Kunath,∥ Royston Goodacre,†,⊥
and Perdita Barran*,†
† Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, School of Chemistry, The University of Manchester, Princess Street, Manchester, U.K., M1 7DN
‡ Anatune, 4 Wellbrook Way, Girton, Cambridge, U.K., CB3 0NA
§ Department of Neurology, Salford Royal Foundation Trust, Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, University of Manchester, Manchester, U.K., M6 8HD
∥ Institute for Stem Cell Research, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, U.K., EH16 4UU
⊥ Department of Biochemistry, Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool, Crown Street, Liverpool, U.K., L69 7ZB
My husband has PD. I have noticed this distinctive odor that comes from the greasy neck and scalp. It permeates the neck of his shirts and where his head rests on his chair and on his pillow. I have tried to get rid of the smell for years! I wish I could tell you when I first noticed the scent. The only other time I smelled this was on a younger man in the grocery store. I was a nurse and have always been very sensitive to odors and scents. During my brief nursing career I was very aware that certain diseases have a common scent! I am so glad there is research in this area.