The key to treating Alzheimer’s is early detection, but this is not always feasible.
According to a statement from the institution, a research team at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum has now created a new sensor that able to identify signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the blood up to 17 years before the first clinical symptoms occur. The device recognises the misfolding of the biomarker protein amyloid-betta, which results in distinctive deposits in the brain.
A simple blood test to determine your risk of developing 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 an organisation led by Professor Hermann Brenner at the 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.
Following that, the researchers chose 68 individuals who had received an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis during the 17-year follow-up and compared them to 240 individuals without such a diagnosis. They wanted to know if the blood samples at the beginning of the trial had any indications of Alzheimer’s disease.
Unexpectedly, Gerwert added, “we discovered that the concentration of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) can identify the disease up to 17 years before the clinical phase, even though it does so much less precisely than the immuno-infrared sensor.”
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 device.
An effective method of screening for the elderly
“We intend to use the misfolding test to build a tool for screening method for older & determine their risk of acquiring Alzheimer’s dementia,” Gerwert added. “The goal of our recently established start-up betaSENSE is to stop the disease in an symptom-free stage before irreversible harm occurs.”
The invention has already received international patent protection, and the researchers predict that as medical technology advances over time, its significance will only increase.
Leon Beyer, the first author and a Ph.D. student in Klaus Gerwert’s team, projected that “the precise timing of therapeutic intervention would become even more crucial in the future.” Future drug trials will be successful if the subjects are properly characterised and not yet showing irreversible damage when the study begins.
The results of the study were published in the journal Alzheimer’s Association.