Dogs can detect epileptic seizures up to 45 minutes before they occur. That’sthanks to their incredible noses, research shows. A canine nose can smell odormolecules in the parts per trillion, including those the human body releasesduring a seizure.
We’ve long known that dogs can detect seizures in humans in some cases 45minutes before they occur. That’s one reason why organizations likeHandi’chiens in France provide service dogs for people with epilepsy.
And in some cases, this can prove lifesaving. It might give people time totake medication that could prevent or reduce the severity of a seizure or movesomewhere safer, where an injury is less likely to occur. Incredible, yes, butproven? Not until French researchers teamed up with Medical Mutts, a US-basedorganization that trains seizure alert dogs.
That marker, they believed, was a scent that dogs can detect. So in 2018, theyset up an experiment. First, they collected dozens of samples of breath andsweat from people with different forms of epilepsy. Some of them were takenduring or right after a seizure, while others were collected after exercise orat rest.
Then they distributed them among seven different steel containers in thisroom. Finally, they let out, or they let in the dogs. One by one, Casey,Dodger, Lana, Zoey, and Roo walked into the room. They were trained to stopand stand still if they think they detected the scent of a seizure. And ifthey were right, they got a treat. Good dog!
To the researchers’ excitement, the canines excelled. Three of the dogs,Casey, Dodger, and Zoey, sniffed out the odor associated with seizure with100% accuracy. The two other pups, Lana and Roo, who had less time to train,weren’t quite as accurate. But they still correctly identified 2/3 of theseizure samples on their first try.
What makes these results even more remarkable is that the scent samples werefrom different people and also produced by different kinds of seizures.
And what exactly is that marker made of? Here’s the thing, we still don’tknow. It’s likely that seizures trigger a change in the body’s electricalactivity, the researchers say. And those changes can affect the composition ofodor molecules that we emit through our sweat, breath, and, likely, urine.
Now, whether people emit these odors before a seizure in time to reduce itsworst effects is still in question. And it’s not something that theresearchers tested. But some experts claim that people emit a specific groupof odor chemicals 15 to 45 minutes prior to seizing, which dogs can detect.
So what exactly makes canines such smell superstars? It’s their incrediblenoses. With as many as 300 million olfactory receptors, a dog’s nose is up to100,000 times stronger than our own. That means that they can detect a fewscent molecules among trillions of them.
Scientists are now trying to build electronic noses that are just as powerful.The idea is that they too could be used to sniff out diseases. But for now,e-noses are nowhere near as good as dogs. And in some ways, doesn’t that seemlike a good thing?
Source: Yahoo News
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