Scientists develop new sensor to detect Alzheimer’s early

Credit: yerling villalobos / Unsplash

In a study from SFU Nanodevice Fabrication Group, scientists developed 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 cardiovascular 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 that there are a number of established methods for detecting biomarker proteins such as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and mass spectrometry, but they have several drawbacks.

These existing methods are expensive, samples need to be sent away to a lab for testing and it can take a day or more to receive the results.

In the study, 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).

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 team will continue testing the device’s ability to detect the same proteins using body fluid like blood samples.

The other objective is to use the same device but a different receptor to detect proteins that are more specific to Alzheimer’s disease.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and blueberry supplements may prevent cognitive decline.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and Coconut oil could help improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s disease.

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

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