E-Nose Could Diagnose Parkinson’s Disease by Smelling Skin

By: | February 27th, 2022

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Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination.

At present, the diagnosis of this disease is mainly based on medical history and physical examination. By the time the disease shows observable symptoms, it is often progressed to the stages that it’s difficult to treat. However, if the disease is diagnosed at early stages, it can help improve one’s quality of life and relieve symptoms. 

Now, in an effort to detect the disease earlier, researchers from China’s Zhejiang University have developed an ‘electronic nose’ that could someday diagnose Parkinson’s disease (PD). 

Scientists discovered that patients with Parkinson’s disease secrete an increased amount of sebum (an oily substance produced by the skin’s sebaceous glands). Moreover, there is also increased production of yeast, enzymes, and hormones, that all leave out the distinctive odor. 

So as to detect the disease at an early stage, researchers have developed a portable, artificially intelligent olfactory system, or e-nose. This portable prototype device combines gas chromatography (GC) technology with a surface acoustic wave sensor. Sensor measures concentrations of specific gases based on the way they interact with a sound wave and machine learning algorithms.

For this research, the team collected sebum samples from 31 PD patients and 32 healthy volunteers. Using this device the team analyzed three odor compounds (octanal, hexyl acetate, and perillic aldehyde) that were significantly different between the two groups.

The device was found to be 70.8 percent accurate in predicting PD. But on analyzing each person’s full body-odor profile that figure rose to 79.2 percent.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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