Our deputy director of research, Dr Simon Stott, was invited to visit the Medical Detection Dogs team in Milton Keynes this week. This is a UK charity which trains dogs to detect the odours of human disease. It is at the forefront of research into conditions like cancer and malaria, and recently they have been teaching the dogs to detect Parkinson's.

This work stems from the remarkable story of Joy Milne - the lady from Scotland who can smell Parkinson's. After she demonstrated that people with Parkinson's have a specific odour, a project was set up to train dogs to detect the smell. Samples of body odour have been collected using damp swabs wiped across the shoulder blades of people with (and without) Parkinson's. The dogs have then been trained to differentiate between these samples and Dr Stott saw first hand the efficiency with which the dogs determine the samples that have been collected from people with Parkinson's (versus those taken from controls).

Dr Claire Guest (CEO of Medical Detection Dogs) and her team are hoping that their Parkinson's detecting dogs will be able to help with early detection of Parkinson's, aid in the diagnosis of the condition (we currently have a 10-15% error rate), and improve our understanding the condition as researchers explore the biology underlying the differences in body smell.