A study is underway to help determine if your sense of smell could determine your risk for developing Parkinson's disease years before you may even be affected by it.
"It turns out that 90 percent of patients with Parkinson's disease have loss of smell," said Dr. Joseph Jankovic, professor of neurology and director of the Parkinson Disease Center and Movement Disorder Clinic at Baylor College of Medicine.
Dr. Jankovic is the lead investigator of the Michael J. Fox Foundation Parkinson's Progression Markers Initiative.
The study is focused on three risk factors for Parkinson's disease including rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, mutation in the LRRK2 gene and reduced sense of smell.
"About 10 percent of patients with recent loss of smell, if you followed them for a period of time eventually they develop Parkinson's disease," said Dr. Jankovic.
In this study, participants are given a smell test similar to children's scratch-and-sniff books and are asked to identify various scents including chocolate, cinnamon, coconut, licorice, pumpkin pie, soap and fruit.
"It is not until we actually test their smell do they actually recognize they have trouble differentiating different smells," said Dr. Jankovic, displaying a copy of the test at his desk.
Those who are found to have a loss of smell will be followed for a period of years to see whether eventually they develop symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Dr. Jankovic said not everybody who has a lost sense of smell develops Parkinson's disease but there is a concern these individuals may have an increase risk for Parkinson's disease.
Researchers are looking for 10,000 people in the US, and globally, with a loss of smell to take part in the study.
Those interested in volunteering for the study are asked to first complete a brief online survey. Qualifying patients will then be sent the scratch-and-sniff smell test and a brief questionnaire to be completed at home. Some individuals may be asked to undergo more extensive testing.
It is hoped early detection of symptoms will lead to better treatments for Parkinson's patients.
Click on the links below for more information on the study.