In the News

Parkinson’s breakthrough can diagnose disease from skin swabs in 3 minutes

Liz Blamire

24th October 2022

Researchers at the University of Manchester used cotton swabs to take sebum samples from the skin of participants which were then analysed via mass spectrometry.

The original research paper, although rather complex, can be read here - Paper Spray Ionization Ion Mobility Mass Spectrometry of Sebum Classifies Biomarker Classes for the Diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. A simpler summary can be read on the University of Manchester website here - Parkinson’s breakthrough can diagnose disease from skin swabs in 3 minutes

To summarise, it is been known for sometime that the body odour of people with Parkinson's Disease is quite distinct due to the altered way in which their sebum (the skin's oily secretions) is produced. This means that sebum in these patients is a useful biomarker for Parkinson's. By using mass spectrometry - a method used to calculate exact molecular weight - lipids that are found in the sebum of people with Parkinson's can be pinpointed (because we know they have particularly high molecular weight). What is more, the technique developed by the team is both non-invasive and rapid.

By developing novel techniques for identifying biomarkers, diagnostic processes can be made more exact and more efficient, which means that treatment can be started earlier and with more success.

As this article in The Conversation explains - Parkinson’s disease: treatment is best started early - the sooner Parkinson's treatment can be commenced the better. Although there is currently no cure, there are treatments available to manage and control the symptoms.

Liz Blamire

Liz is a former NHS midwife, who has worked in community, birth centre and acute hospital settings. Liz is an SSAT Accredited Lead Practitioner, who has taught Health and Social Care in FE and secondary schools, where she was a successful HOD. Liz is an experienced senior examiner and author and is the current tutor2u subject lead for Health and Social Care.

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