Researcher detects dementia in the blood

27. September 2021 13:46

Researcher Peter Nirmalraj from the Federal Materials Testing and Research Institute (Empa) is on the trail of signs of dementia in the blood. As part of a pilot study that has now been successfully completed, according to one Press release Recognize a pattern in sick test subjects: Their blood samples contained large amounts of protein fibers made up of beta-amyloid peptides and tau proteins. These proteins were able to join together to form fibers several hundred nanometers in length. In contrast, the researcher working in Dübendorf and St.Gallen counted only a few fibers on red blood cells in healthy people.

It was known that both proteins occur more frequently in body fluids in dementia. Their exact role in neurodegenerative diseases has not yet been deciphered. The technologies developed by Nirmalraj can now not only determine the total amount of these proteins, but also make the differences in the shape and condition of the protein accumulations visible. For his blood observations in the nanometer range, he uses atomic force microscopy (AFM). In one Video he presents his approach.

Together with neurologists from the St.Gallen Cantonal Hospital, Nirmalraj analyzed blood samples from 50 patients and 16 healthy people in the pilot study. The scientist did not know the state of health associated with the blood sample: “This was the only way to guarantee that the interpretation of the data remained objective.” Their results have now been published in the specialist journal “Science Advances” published.

If a reliable blood test can be developed with this method, “people with suspected Alzheimer’s would be spared the uncomfortable puncture of the spinal cord in order to be able to diagnose the disease clearly,” says Nirmalraj. In a next step, the team now wants to expand and substantiate the clinical database. mm

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