Meet the Woman Who Can Smell Parkinson's Disease on People's Skin

Even before a diagnosis is made.

Being able to guess what's for dinner the second you walk in the front door is one thing. Being able to detect a complex disease before it's even been diagnosed by a qualified doctor? Well, that's a totally different story.

It's Joy Milne's story, to be exact. According to the BBC, Milne can smell Parkinson's disease on a person's skin, and it all started when she detected a new scent on her late husband. This ability isn't unheard of — in dogs, who can uncover numerous different conditions with their 125 million to 300 million scent glands. But not in humans, who only have five million.

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Milne noticed the new "musky" scent on her husband about six years before he received a Parkinson's diagnosis. But even after her husband's death 20 years later, she still didn't realize the significance of the smell. That is, until she began working with the charity Parkinson's UK and often caught whiffs of the familiar scent again.

To test her skills, researchers from Scotland's Edinburgh University gave her 12 t-shirts — six from people with Parkinson's and six from people without. She was accurate on 11 of the 12 t-shirts, at least at that moment: The one person she had "incorrectly" identified as having Parkinson's received a diagnosis eight months later. She wasn't wrong, after all — she just knew before doctors did.

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