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Sensor Detects Alzheimer's 17 Years in Advance

Remarkably, this novel device produces results in the symptom-free stage. That's very good news because the earlier it is detected, the greater the chance it can be stopped - before irreversible damage occurs.

Graphic depicting brain neurons

Early detection is key in the treatment of Alzheimer's, but achieving that is not always possible. Now, a research team at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum has developed a new sensor that is able to identify signs of Alzheimer's disease in the blood up to 17 years before the first clinical symptoms appear, according to a press release by the institution. The device detects the misfolding of the protein biomarker amyloid-betta that causes characteristic deposits in the brain.

"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," says Professor Klaus Gerwert, founding director of the Centre for Protein Diagnostics at Ruhr-Universität Bochum.

His team has joined forces with a group at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg headed by Professor Hermann Brenner - and the team has very ambitious plans for their new device.

"We plan to use the misfolding test to establish a screening method for older people and determine their risk of developing Alzheimer's dementia," added Gerwert. "The vision of our newly founded start-up betaSENSE is that the disease can be stopped in a symptom-free stage before irreversible damage occurs."

The invention has already been patented worldwide, and the researchers think its importance will only grow with time and further medical developments.

"The exact timing of therapeutic intervention will become even more important in the future," predicted Léon Beyer, first author and Ph.D. student in Klaus Gerwert's team. "The success of future drug trials will depend on the study participants being correctly characterized and not yet showing irreversible damage at study entry."

The results of the study were published in the journal Alzheimer's Association.

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