Future Smell Test Proposed for Parkinson's

GOTHENBURG, Sweden, June 14 (UPI) — German, British, and Swiss researchers have proposed using the sense of smell to help diagnosis early Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers, led by Dr. Silke Nuber of the University of Tubingen, Germany, said a fast, non-invasive smell test could also help in developing treatments for Parkinson’s disease. Nuber noted this central nervous system degenerative disorder — affecting motor skills, speech, mood and cognitive functions — presently has no cure.

Nuber and colleagues studied neurotransmitter activity in the brains of transgenic mice with high levels of human alpha-synuclein — a protein linked to development of Parkinson’s. The researchers found a deficit of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra when the mice were exposed to a strong scent.

“The mice expressed alpha-synuclein primarily in neurons of the olfactory bulb,” Nuber said in a statement. “We believe that we have developed one of the first models to show this olfactorial dopamine deficit without additional abnormalities in the nigrostriatal pathway.”

Nuber explained the substantia nigra — a structure located in the midbrain — is also where motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease become evident but usually not until more than half of dopamine function has been lost.

The study was presented at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics in Gothenburg, Sweden.

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