A Parkinson's researcher looking down a microscope

Could doctors one day smell Parkinson's?


A Parkinson's UK-funded study published in bioRxiv has indicated a Parkinson's diagnosis based on the way people smell could be on the horizon.

By comparing sebum – an oily secretion that sits on people’s skin – from groups of people with and without Parkinson’s, researchers at the University of Manchester have found levels of 4 chemicals on the skin differ when someone has the condition, leading to a "Parkinson's-like" smell.

The study was inspired by Joy Milne of Perth, Scotland, who approached Parkinson's UK researchers about the fact she had noticed a change in the way her husband smelled 6 years before he was diagnosed with the condition. Joy was also a key contributor to this research.

Commenting on the study, Dr Beckie Port, Research Manager at Parkinson's UK, said:

"This is a hugely promising study that has demonstrated for the first time that there is a difference in chemicals on the skin between people with Parkinson’s and people without.

"At the moment, there is no test for Parkinson's which not only means people are left in limbo while they wait for a diagnosis, but also delays the search for a cure.

"While the 4 chemicals identified would not be enough for a diagnosis, it gives hope that further research, with more participants, could lead the way to identifying enough differences to create a much-needed test for Parkinson's."


For more information please contact:

Amy Dodge, Media and PR Manager, Parkinson's UK: 

  • 0207 932 1362
  • 07961 460248 (out of hours)

About Parkinson's UK

Every hour, 2 people are told they have Parkinson's.

It affects 145,000 people in the UK – which is around 1 in 350 of the population.

Parkinson's is a degenerative neurological condition, for which there currently is no cure. The main symptoms of the condition are tremor, slowness of movement and rigidity.

Parkinson's UK is the UK's leading charity supporting those with the condition. Its mission is to find a cure and improve life for everyone affected by Parkinson's through cutting edge research, information, support and campaigning.