Overview of the PADs Program
Since the 2015 discovery of the woman in Scotland who could smell Parkinson's Disease, PADs has trained more than 20 dogs to successfully select Parkinson's samples from healthy human control samples with an accuracy rating of 90% or higher. The dogs attend training up to four days per week and are homed locally by their owner/handlers. The nonprofit program is staffed by a director of canine detection and a host of volunteers. In 2017, PADs became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission to train dogs to detect Parkinson's Disease.
Since there is no definitive laboratory diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, the dogs may be able to provide an important contribution to the search for a cause or a cure. If the dogs can be proven to help with early detection of Parkinson’s Disease, this could lead to an extended active lifestyle for those afflicted with Parkinson’s, since detection prior to tremor stage provides the greatest hope for slowing progression of the disease.
The Mission of the Program is supported on many levels. Data is collected and compiled for each training session with the goal of tracking and fine-tuning training methodology. All training sessions are open to the public for observation, and PADs maintains an open-door policy on collaboration with professionals in canine detection, and medical and science research. PADs operates on the core belief that finding the answer to the puzzle of Parkinson’s will come from the collective sharing of the many different pieces of the puzzle. If we all put our knowledge, expertise and tools on the table, those pieces will come together.
Science research at PADs is led by our Chief Science Officer, Dr. Jack Bell, a University of Washington analytical chemist, who is working to help uncover the mystery of the “what the dogs are smelling.” Current investigative efforts are targeted at 1) volatile organic compounds resulting from aldehydes and 2) biological organisms that interact with lipid production. Collaboration and research studies are being conducted with the Parkinson’s Alert Dogs across different organizational platforms. The PADs provide information by clearing (specificity) or alerting (sensitivity) to help fine-tune research efforts as laboratory-created compounds are presented to the dogs for their reaction. The canine detection information is then examined for additional clues using gas and/or liquid mass spectrometry equipment.