Neurological diseases

Neurological diseases affect 584,000 in the UK.

We are determined to improve early diagnosis of progressive debilitating disease.

Neurological diseases affect over 1 billion people worldwide. Our work currently focuses on Parkinson’s disease, which affects one in every 500 people in the UK. People with this complex progressive neurological condition can be left struggling to move, speak, swallow and even breathe.

There is currently no definitive test for Parkinson’s. Diagnosis is usually made in response to the individual exhibiting motor symptoms, such as tremor and rigidity and non-motor symptoms such as feeling tired and having sleep problems. Sadly, there is no cure and Parkinson’s symptoms typically only start when more than half of the relevant nerve cells in the brain have already been lost, which the latest research suggests is up to 20 years after the disease first occurs. 

Being able to diagnose the condition earlier would lead to treatments starting sooner and greatly increase the chances of developing those which slow progression of the disease, or even of finding a cure.

Our work

Medical Detection Dogs, in collaboration with Manchester University and Edinburgh University, has been working on a ground-breaking proof of principle study which has determined that dogs can detect Parkinson’s disease, possibly many years before symptoms start to show.

Our dogs have tested several hundred samples, and were trained to respond with simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ indications. These results were very positive and will enable our collaborators in the next stage of this research to hone in on the specific chemical linked to Parkinson’s.

The future

In the next stage of the study our collaborators will use mass spectrometers to split samples into their component molecules to hone in on the specific chemical linked to Parkinson’s. We will then present the dogs with each component part so they can identify the key chemical indicator for Parkinson’s.

Our goal is to develop a definitive way to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. This will contribute to developing earlier, more effective treatment, and will open the door to further research into the cause and progression of this debilitating disease.

How can you help?

The next phase of our research into Parkinson’s disease is now underway and will focus on early detection of the disease from sweat samples collected from early stage and pre-diagnosis participants. This study, in collaboration with the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre and Manchester University, will seek to determine if dogs can detect Parkinson’s before the onset of or progression of early Parkinson’s symptoms. The results of the dog decisions will then be compared to chemical analysis of the same samples. From this, we hope to see how early dogs can detect Parkinson’s, allowing for earlier diagnosis and earlier intervention.

You can help us start the dogs’ training in preparation for the trial as we’re looking for negative volunteers aged 18+ to supply a skin swab sample. You simply need to wipe a small piece of material across your face before you shower in the morning and answer some basic questions about your current health.

We’ll provide you with everything you need – to find out more and have a pack sent to you to take part, please Request for a Parkinson’s training sample pack​.

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