Fading olfactory sense foreshadows Parkinson’s disease

December 12th, 2008 - 1:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 12 (IANS) People suffering from Parkinson’s disease recall losing their olfactory sense long before the onset of more commonly recognised symptoms like impaired dexterity, speech problems and memory loss. Researchers from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, US and its memorial hospital are participating in a national study to determine whether fading olfactory sense signals Parkinson’s.

Nearly a million people in the US are affected by Parkinson’s, which stems from premature ageing of dopamine producing cells in the brain, and the number is likely to grow as the population ages.

By the time Parkinson’s disease is detected, most individuals have already experienced a 60 to 70 percent loss of dopamine producing cells in the brain, according to a Northwestern release.

“Very little is known about the early stages of this disease,” said Tanya Simuni, associate professor of neurology at Feinberg School.

“By utilising smell testing in conjunction with other tests, we hope to develop a system that identifies the presence of Parkinson’s before it develops into problematic symptoms,” she added.

Evaluating 7,500 relatives for three to five years, the study draws from research demonstrating that close family like mothers, fathers, siblings or children have a slightly higher risk of developing the disease.

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