New sensor for early Alzheimer’s disease detection

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In a study from SFU Nanodevice Fabrication Group, scientists are developing a new biosensor that can be used to screen for Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases.

Their sensor works by detecting a particular type of small protein, in this case, a cytokine known as Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha (TNF alpha), which is involved with inflammation in the body.

Abnormal cytokine levels have been linked to a wide variety of diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, cancers, heart disease, autoimmune, and heart disease.

TNF alpha can act as a biomarker, a measurable characteristic indicating health status.

COVID-19 can also cause inflammatory reactions known as “cytokine storms,” and studies have shown that cytokine inhibitors are an effective treatment for improving chances of survival.

The team says their goal is to develop a sensor that’s less invasive, less expensive, and simpler to use than existing methods.

These sensors are also small and have the potential to be placed in doctor’s offices to help diagnose different diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.

The new biosensor is extremely sensitive and can detect TNF alpha in very low concentrations (10 fM)—well below the concentrations normally found in healthy blood samples (200–300 fM).

Current screening tests for Alzheimer’s disease include a questionnaire to determine if the person has symptoms, brain imaging, or a spinal tap process which involves testing for the biomarker proteins in the cerebral spinal fluid of the potential patient.

The team has completed the proof-of-concept stage, proving that the two-electrode diode sensor is effective in detecting TNF alpha in a laboratory setting.

They plan to test the biosensor in clinical trials to ensure it would be able to effectively detect biomarker proteins within a blood sample containing many different interfering proteins and other substances.

The researchers have also filed a provisional patent application with the Technology Licensing Office (TLO) at SFU.

If you care about Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies about why some older people are less likely to have Alzheimer’s disease, and nose picking could increase the risk for Alzheimer’s.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about decreased proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and results showing these antioxidants could help reduce the risk of dementia.

The study was conducted by Professor Michael Adachi et al and published in the journal Nature Communications.

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