Identifying Alzheimer's 17 years before the first symptoms thanks to a new sensor -

Immuno-infrared sensor improves diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease

A new sensor developed in Germany is able to identify misfolded protein biomarkers in the blood, which could help diagnose Alzheimer's disease even in the absence of symptoms. The sensor can detect signs of Alzheimer's disease in the blood about 17 years before the first clinical symptoms appear.

In a research project involving experts from the Ruhr University in Bochum, certain plasma biomarkers were measured using a special sensor. The researchers also determined their predictive power for the development of Alzheimer's disease. The results can be found in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association.

Long asymptomatic course in Alzheimer's disease

The researchers explain that Alzheimer's disease normally progresses without symptoms for 15 to 20 years before the first clinical symptoms appear. However, the special immuno-infrared sensor developed in Bochum makes it possible to identify signs of Alzheimer's disease long before symptoms appear.

Sensor identifies beta-amyloid misfolding

The sensor detects the misfolding of a protein biomarker called beta-amyloid. As Alzheimer's disease progresses, this misfolding causes characteristic deposits in the brain called plaques.

Determining the risk of Alzheimer's by blood test

"Our goal is to determine the risk of later developing Alzheimer's dementia with a simple blood test before the toxic plaques can form in the brain - so that therapy can start in time", reports the professor involved in the development of Dr. Klaus Gerwert in a press release.

The team analyzed the blood plasma of participants in the so-called ESTHER study for potential biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease. At the time of the blood test, the participants were between 50 and 75 years old. None of the participants had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease until now.

A sensor identifies Alzheimer's disease with high precision

During the study, 68 participants developed Alzheimer's disease. With the help of the newly developed immuno-infrared sensor, it was possible to identify these people with a high degree of accuracy, the researchers report.

For comparison, experts examined other biomarkers using the so-called SIMOA technology. They focused in particular on the biomarker P-tau181. Unlike the clinical phase, however, this marker is not suitable for the asymptomatic early phase of Alzheimer's disease, according to Prof. Dr. Evaluate.

"Surprisingly, however, we found that the concentration of glial fibrillary protein (GFAP) can indicate disease up to 17 years before the clinical phase, but with much less accuracy than the immuno-infrared sensor", adds the doctor.

The team succeeded in increasing the accuracy of the test in a symptom-free state by combining measurement of beta-amyloid misfolding and GFAP concentration.

Experts hope that early diagnosis using the new method will make it possible in the future to use drugs against Alzheimer's disease at such an early stage that their effectiveness can be significantly improved.

"With the misfolding test, we want to establish a precautionary measure for older people and determine their risk of developing Alzheimer's dementia. The vision of our newly founded start-up betaSENSE is that the disease can be stopped in a asymptomatic state before irreversible damage occurs, ”says Prof. Dr. Evaluate.

Although the new sensor is already patented worldwide, it is still under development. BetaSENSE is expected to bring the immuno-infrared sensor to maturity and approval as a diagnostic device.

Differences with the current diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease

Unlike the plaque diagnostics used today, the immuno-infrared sensor shows the previous misfolding of beta-amyloid. Bad bending later leads to the formation of dangerous plaques.

"However, the question of whether this misfolding is the cause or only an accompaniment of Alzheimer's disease remains controversial. This question is very important for the therapeutic approach, but irrelevant for diagnosis. The misfolding indicates the onset of Alzheimer's disease,” adds Prof. Dr. Evaluate.

The moment at which a therapeutic intervention begins will become more important in the future. "The success of further drug studies will depend on whether study participants are properly characterized and show no irreversible harm when they enter the study," says study author Léon Beyer. .

The sensor can identify other neurodegenerative diseases

In principle, the new immuno-infrared sensor also works to detect other misfolded proteins that often play central roles in neurodegenerative diseases.

"In particular, this platform technology enables differential and accurate diagnosis based on biomarkers in the early stages of neurodegenerative diseases, in which diagnosis based on previous symptoms is very difficult and error-prone", summarizes Professor Dr. .value together. (as)

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This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.


Léon Beyer, Hannah Stocker, Dan Rujescu, Bernd Holleczek, Julia Stockmann, et al. : Amyloid-beta misfolding and GFAP predict the risk of clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease by 17 years; in: Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association (published 07/19/2022), Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's AssociationRuhr Universität Bochum: Alzheimer's early detection up to 17 years advance (published 07/21/ 2022 ), RUB

Important note:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.