August 19, 2013

Scratch-and-Sniff test for Parkinson's disease

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fibersMany of us grew up with iconic scratch-and-sniff technology. Maybe kids in your class had stickers that smelled like berries or popcorn when scratched. Mom's fashion magazine offered pungent samples of the latest perfume. According to its Wikipedia entry, everything from Nintendo video game packaging to a smell guide promoting the movie Spy Kids to Katy Perry's album Teenage Dream (cotton candy) have featured micro-fragrance coatings. Apparently, 3M came up with it by accident in the '60s during experiments on a copying technology.

Given the technology's pop-culture history, I was surprised to read a recent story in the Birmingham News that it is now being used to test people for early signs of Parkinson's disease. The story features video of David Standaert, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Neurology within the UAB School of Medicine, demonstrating the test. We asked him to talk about the science behind the test, as well as his team's involvement in a related study funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Click here to hear Dr. Standaert's interview and see notes from the podcast.