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Risk factors for Parkinson's disease under study
Date:1/7/2008

Doctors know an impaired sense of smell is an early indicator of Parkinsons Disease.

Now they want to know if a smell test can help determine if people with no symptoms eventually develop the disease.

The analogy would be like diagnosing coronary artery disease before the heart attack, says Dr. Kapil Sethi, director of the Movement Disorders Program at the Medical College of Georgia and a lead investigator the Parkinsons Associated Risk Syndrome Study. With Parkinsons, we are dependent on the presence of motor symptoms like tremors, stiffness and slowness in order to diagnose it. By that time you have lost 50 to 60 percent of your dopaminergic cells, which make dopamine and are key to movement control. The question becomes, is there a window between when you had non-motor symptoms like loss of smell and when you begin to demonstrate clinical motor symptoms"

Dr. Sethi and researchers at 17 other sites across the country will recruit 15,000 close relatives of Parkinsons patients as part of the study, which is being led by the Institute for Neurodegenerative Disorders and the University of Pennsylvania.

By testing those with a family history of the disease, we have an enriched population, he says. We already know that those people are more at risk. To enrich the sample even further, well test their sense of smell. Its not just the essence of a sense of smell that is different in these people. Its a quantitative decrease in their ability to distinguish odors.

Patients will be given the University of Pennsylvanias Smell Identification Test, which tests for 40 common odors and has been used to detect the first signs of neurodegenerative disorders.

People with a normal sense of smell who take the test can usually identify around 35 odors correctly. Parkinsons patients typically can only identify 20 or less.

The study will also help determine if the smell test can also predict who will get Parkinso
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Contact: Jennifer Hilliard
jhilliard@mcg.edu
706-721-8604
Medical College of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert  

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