At the moment, there are no cures for Parkinson’s, but a confirmatory diagnostic would allow them to get the right treatment and get the drugs that will help to alleviate their symptoms.Professor Perdita Barran, University of Manchester
I have received several emails from friends in the last few days who have sent me articles about two different topics for Parkinson’s. One is a vaccine for Parkinson’s. The other is the smell test. Scientists have been researching both of these for several years now.
New Parkinson’s Test Developed Thanks to Woman who Could Smell the Disease
Let’s start with the smell test. This has been floating around the PD world for several years. A woman named Joy Milne, from Scotland, is said to have discovered that her husband with Parkinson’s had a distinctive odor when he was 33, 12 years before he was diagnosed. Mrs Milne, dubbed ‘the woman who can smell Parkinson’s, described a “musky” aroma, different from his normal scent. Apparently Milne has a rare condition which gives her a heightened sense of smell.
According to a recent article by Ella Pickover at Medscape UK, researchers at the University of Manchester have been working with Milne for several years and have made a breakthrough by developing a test which can identify people with Parkinson’s disease using a simple cotton bud run along the back of the neck. They can then examine the sample to identify molecules linked to the disease to help diagnose whether someone has the disease.
Since there is currently no definitive test for Parkinson’s disease, with diagnosis based on a patient’s symptoms and medical history, the swab test could achieve a faster diagnosis, allowing for earlier treatments, which would be transformative according to Professor Perdita Barran, University of Manchester.
A vaccine to slow or stop Parkinson’s
As for the vaccine, we don’t know enough yet to get too excited. Yes, early tests show that it is tolerable in people without Parkinson’s. But what remains to be seen is if it actually reverses the alpha synuclein build up in the brains of those of us with PD.
The Michael J Fox Foundation reported that “Researchers recently completed a randomized first-in-human study of UB-312, a vaccine they hope will prove effective against Parkinson’s. This phase of the study, completed by Vaxxinity as part of an ongoing clinical trial, examined the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine in blocking toxic build-ups of the alpha-synuclein protein – a pathological hallmark of Parkinson’s and a priority target for drug development.” They have found that the vaccine was generally safe, well tolerated and induced anti-alpha-synuclein antibodies in people without Parkinson’s.
We are waiting eagerly for the results of the next phase of trials which will hopefully include people with Parkinson’s. If this does indeed reduce or even block alpha-synuclein build-ups and prevent neurodegeneration, it will definitely be a game changer for People with Parkinson’s.
You can read more about this study on the Fox website
Is the cure within reach?
The late Tom Isaacs, at the World Parkinson Congress in Portland, 2016, said that we are always told we are 5 years away from the cure. 5 years later we are still told it is 5 years away. And on and on…..It is a constantly moving target that is not getting any closer. So for the vaccine, I will believe it when they show real evidence that it works to reverse the damage in the brain.
After 14 + years of living with Parkinson’s, I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop. So far, so good. I am doing well. But what will the next 5 years look like? No one likes living with the tremors and other symptoms which can make life miserable, so we are hoping the vaccine will become a reality much sooner than 5 years from now.
By the way, 14 years ago, the outlook for people with PD was not great. Most people were told they had 5 good years left. That was it. There have been many positive changes in the last 10 years, with a proliferation of different types of medication, intense exercise recommendations, etc. As a result, a lot of us are now proving them wrong! The cure may still be 5 years away, but with the possibilities of a smell test for earlier diagnosis and a vaccine in the near future, many of us will definitely live better lives for much more than 5 years with Parkinson’s.