It has been described that people with Parkinson’s disease have a specific signature odor. This odor arises from an oily skin secretion called sebum. Odor detection in the nose is achieved by a combination of protein-based sensors, called odorant receptors that line our nasal cavities. Yesse Technologies is building a technology platform that harnesses these evolutionarily selected odorant receptors as biological sensors to detect and distinguish Parkinson’s disease from control participant odors. We will collect gauzes with sebum, purify odor molecules and apply the odor extract to an array of identified candidate sensors to ultimately build an odor-based early diagnostic test.
Biological question: Can we show that our candidate sensors (odorant receptors) are activated by purified Parkinson’s associated odor molecules?
We will employ the following biological strategies to answer our questions:
- We will collect sebum samples from Parkinson’s patients and control volunteers
- We will develop methods to isolate the odors from the sebum samples
- We will generate candidate sensors that may potentially respond to the signature Parkinson’s odor
- We will develop a biological assay that will test the interaction between the odors and sensors
- We will show that the sensors respond to the Parkinson’s odor significantly different from control volunteer odors
Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease:
Currently there is no early diagnostic test for Parkinson’s disease; most people are diagnosed after the appearance of symptoms. Publications indicate that the change in patients’ odors occurs before the manifestation of symptoms. Using an existing biological capacity to smell and diagnose the disease early on may allow sooner medical intervention and delayed disease progression.
Next Steps for Development:
In future experiments we aim to develop a repeatable, reliable and easy to use diagnostic tool. It would be interesting to test whether this assay could predict disease stage and severity as well as distinguish Parkinson’s disease from similar neurodegenerative diseases.