A team of scientists from the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California in San Diego (United States) has designed a new system to diagnose Alzheimer’s early and Parkinson’s which consists of a portable and non-invasive device that can detect biomarkers of these diseases and transmit the results obtained to a computer or smartphone, and that could even be modified to detect biomarkers of other pathologies.
The new device relies on electrical rather than chemical detection because researchers say it is easier to implement and more accurate. In fact, they have already tested it in samples in vitro of patients and have found that it is extremely accurate, so they have decided analyze saliva and urine samples with this biosensor. His findings have been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).
The methods currently available to diagnose Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s include invasive tests, such as a lumbar puncture or an MRI, and many patients are reluctant to undergo them, or already have symptoms that interfere with their mobility or difficulties accessing centers. where they are performed.
It is portable diagnostic system would allow testing for neurodegenerative diseases in patients’ homes and in health care facilities, such as clinics and nursing homes around the world, said Ratnesh Lal, professor of bioengineering, mechanical engineering and materials sciences at the School of Engineering at UC San Diego Jacobs and one of the corresponding authors of the articles.
How the device works to diagnose Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
To carry out his research, Lal has focused on one of the predominant hypotheses in this area, which indicates that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by soluble amyloid peptides that clump together into larger molecules, which in turn form ion channels. in the brain.
Their objective was to develop a test capable of detecting beta and amyloid peptides – biomarkers for Alzheimer’s – and alpha synuclein proteins – a biomarker for Parkinson’s – non-invasively, specifically from saliva and urine. He preferred electrical rather than chemical detection, as he believes it is easier to implement and more accurate. Furthermore, he wanted to create a device that could wirelessly transmit results of the test to the patient’s family and doctors.
This portable diagnostic system would allow testing for neurodegenerative diseases in patients’ homes and in clinics and nursing homes around the world
The device is the result of his three decades of experience, as well as his collaboration with researchers worldwide, including the co-authors of this work from Texas and China. He and his colleagues adapted a device they developed during the COVID pandemic to detect the spike and nucleoprotein proteins in the live SARS-CoV-2 virus, which they described in PNAS in 2022. This advance was possible thanks to chip miniaturization and large-scale automation of biosensor manufacturing.
The researchers tested the new device with amyloid proteins obtained from the brains of patients who died from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and the results showed that the biosensors were able to detect the specific biomarkers for both conditions with great precision, and that the device also works at extremely low concentrations, which means that it requires small amounts of samples of only a few microliters.
The tests also showed that the device worked well even when the analyzed samples contained other proteins. Tau proteins were more difficult to detect, but because the device examines three different biomarkers it can combine the results of all three to obtain a reliable overall result.
The next steps include testing the device on blood plasma and cerebrospinal fluid, and finally on saliva and urine samples. The tests would be carried out in hospitals and nursing homes and, if successful, FDA approval will be requested to market it over the next year.