New sensor enables 17-year-ahead Alzheimer’s disease detection

The key to treating Alzheimer’s is early detection, but this is not always feasible.

According to a news statement from the institution, a research team at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum has now created a new sensor that may spot indicators of Alzheimer’s disease in the blood up to 17 years before the first clinical symptoms occur. The tool recognizes the misfolding of the biomarker protein amyloid-betta, which results in distinctive deposits in the brain.

A quick blood test to determine your risk of contracting the disease
According to Professor Klaus Gerwert, founding director of the Centre for Protein Diagnostics (PRODI) at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, “Our goal is to determine the risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia at a later stage with a simple blood test even before the toxic plaques can form in the brain, in order to ensure that a therapy can be initiated in time.”

His team collaborated with a team at the Hermann Brenner-led German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg (DKFZ).

Blood plasma collected from individuals between 2000 and 2002 and then frozen was studied by the researchers. The individuals weren’t yet known to have Alzheimer’s disease at that time.

Alzheimer
Part of the Bochum research team: Klaus Gerwert (left) and Léon Beyer. Source: RUB

The study’s authors then chose 68 participants who had received an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis throughout the course of the 17-year follow-up and compared them to 240 control participants who had not received a diagnosis. They wanted to see if there were any early indications of Alzheimer’s disease in the blood samples used in the study.

Even if it does so much less precisely than the immuno-infrared sensor, Gerwert noted, “surprisingly, we observed that the concentration of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) can indicate the disease up to 17 years before the clinical phase.”
The accuracy of the test in the symptom-free stage was subsequently further improved by combining the amyloid-beta misfolding and GFAP concentration.
The group now has some extremely big ambitions for their new gadget.
An effective screening technique for the elderly
According to Gerwert, “We intend to use the misfolding test to construct an older person screening approach and assess their risk of acquiring Alzheimer’s dementia.” The goal of our recently established start-up betaSENSE is to halt the disease before permanent damage is done while it is still in an asymptomatic stage.

The idea has already received international patent protection, and the researchers predict that as medical technology advances over time, its significance will only increase.

Léin Beyer, the first author and a Ph.D. candidate on Klaus Gerwert’s team, projected that “the precise timing of therapeutic intervention would become even more crucial in the future.” Future therapeutic trials will be successful if the subjects are accurately identified and do not already have irreversible damage when the study begins.

The journal Alzheimer’s Association published the study’s findings.

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