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.
Medical Detection Dogs, in collaboration with Manchester University and Edinburgh University, is working on a ground-breaking proof of principle study to determine whether dogs can be used to detect Parkinson’s disease, possibly many years before symptoms start to show.
In the next stage of the study our dogs will test several hundred samples, and will be trained to respond with simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ indications. These results will enable our collaborators to hone in on the specific chemical linked to Parkinson’s. Using mass spectrometers to split samples into their component molecules, they 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.