Parkinson’s disease

Neurological diseases affect over 1 billion people worldwide. Our work currently focuses on Parkinson’s disease (PD). Globally, disability and death due to PD are rapidly increasing, and we are determined to improve early diagnosis of this progressive, debilitating disease.

People with Parkinson’s disease can be left struggling to move, speak, swallow and even breathe. There is currently no definitive test for it. Diagnosis is usually made in response to the individual exhibiting motor symptoms, such as tremor and rigidity, or slowness of movement (bradykinesia) and non-motor symptoms. Sadly, there is no cure and PD symptoms typically only start when more than half of the relevant nerve cells in the brain have already been lost, which research suggests is up to 20 years after the disease first occurs.

Early diagnosis is key. Treatment can slow down the progression of the disease and reduce the intensity of symptoms.

Proprietary results from our team of Parkinson’s disease detection dogs proved that they could find an individual with PD very reliably from their odour, with up to 80% sensitivity and up to 98.3% specificity, in a double blind trial.

After this success, the next stage of this project is to show how early in the disease process our dogs can detect Parkinson’s disease odour. We will show them samples from patients with symptoms that are often associated with PD (but may be other conditions) alongside confirmed PD samples, to see if there are similarities in odour between true PD and these pre-conditions. If the dogs identify some of the samples as Parkinson’s disease, this will give information which could assist with earlier identification of PD before a patient displays the more definite, debilitating symptoms.

We will also expand this work to include more participants, ideally incorporating a longitudinal study to truly investigate dogs’ abilities to detect Parkinson’s disease before symptoms or formal diagnosis.

We believe there is a real potential for dogs to achieve even higher accuracy with increased exposure and refined training methods and to detect early-stage Parkinson’s disease, even prior to diagnosis.

We believe our dogs could offer a supportive, additional service to assist PD diagnosis within the framework of the current tests available, enabling faster, accurate diagnosis and access to treatments which can slow down the progression of the disease and reduce symptoms.

The knowledge our dogs provide could also ultimately lead to the development of technology that provides, accurate, non-invasive diagnosis.

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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