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Test might sniff out Parkinson's

Wednesday August 06, 2008


King5.com - Margie Chamberlain's last birthday was a painful reminder.

"I'm 51 and when my mother was diagnosed with Parkinson's, she was 50 or 51. Nobody should have to go through what my mother went through and I just hope that I can do something to make a difference," she said.

Her nose might help. Researchers want to know if a smell test can identify healthy people who are at risk of developing Parkinson's.

People with a normal sense of smell can correctly identify around 35-40 smells. People with Parkinson's can identify 20 or less.

"The difficulty with identifying odors or smells is a very early manifestation. It actually may occur years before they develop Parkinson's disease," said Kapil D. Sethi, MD, a neurologist at the Medical College of Georgia.

Dr. Sethi says by the time patients start having tremors, they've already lost more than half their motor-related brain cells.

"I hope and pray I don't have Parkinson's disease," said Margie.

Researchers want to find a way to stop Parkinson's before it starts.

"When we develop drugs or cocktails -- combinations of drugs that slow down Parkinson's, then we could intervene before they get Parkinson's, so maybe delay it by three or four years. Wouldn't that be wonderful? It would have a huge public health impact," said Dr. Sethi.

The nationwide Parkinson's study is still recruiting participants must be over 50 and have a mother, father, child or sibling with Parkinson's. The closest site is in Portland.