In a new study, researchers have developed a high-sensitivity detector that could help aid early Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
The research was conducted by a team from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
A prime suspect in the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases is a normally benign enzyme that is essential to the proper development of the nervous system.
Under certain conditions, its chemical structure changes and it goes rogue, contributing to the neural devastation that accompanies dementia.
Researchers around the world are intensely investigating this enzyme, called Cdk5, to understand its dynamics and eventually find ways to mitigate or eliminate its damage.
The currently available test requires doctors to put the enzymes and their substrates [their biochemical targets] in a test tube, incubate them together with specially labeled chemicals for a while, and then count the radioactive emissions or flashes of light that come out.
The whole process can take as much as half a day. And it needs expensive, specialized molecule handling and radioactive material precautions.
In the new study, the team has developed a novel, highly sensitive system to track the activity of Cdk5 in real-time with more than 10 times greater sensitivity than previously possible.
The new method requires no labels and measures enzyme action thousands of times a second.
The sensitivity of this technique can enable a new class of tests that could allow early detection of neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease years or even decades before the first symptoms appear
Importantly, such diagnostic tests can be non-invasive and made using blood or platelets.
The team says the extremely fine time resolution gives scientists detailed information about how these complexes form and what the mechanism of their interaction is.
That could be important to understand why diseases arise in the first place. That kind of information will be crucial for researchers to develop drugs to “re-regulate” Cdk5, and thus prevent the disease from occurring.
The lead author of the study is Harish Pant.
The study is published in Nanoscale.
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