Many different approaches have been offered by scientists to stem the overwhelming tide of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Fifty percent of primary care physicians believe that the medical profession is not prepared to deal with the anticipated increase of AD patients.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it is estimated that over five million Americans have the disease, and the number of cases is growing rapidly. It is considered by some people in the medical profession to be a “pending disaster”.
Any one of three potential solutions would make a significant difference for Alzheimer’s patients. Prevention, delaying the onset of AD, or slowing the progression of the disease.
These are goals that are attainable through biomarkers that have proven that they can modify the disease followed by testing through clinical trials.
A New Method of Detection
Scientists at Washington State University (WSU) now have a method of detection that is a major improvement in blood testing for AD.
Compared to current technology, the new blood-testing technology is ten times more sensitive. The technology is still in the developmental stage but has demonstrated the potential to detect AD much earlier.
The Testing Must Change
Currently, doctors diagnose their patients according to their symptoms. The downside of this is that by the time symptoms materialize, brain damage has already occurred.
On the other hand, although CT scans and MRIs can confirm AD, these technologies are not suitable for early detection. Testing spinal fluid in search of beta-amyloid proteins (biomarkers) is another option, but it is invasive when compared to a blood test.
ELISA is an immunosorbent assay that tests for several diseases including lime disease and HIV. ELISA uses an enzyme that can be found in horseradish roots. If the roots change color it is an indication (biomarker) that disease is present. There is also a downside to ELISA, as levels of the biomarker can be too small to detect.
The Changing Landscape
Over the past year, researchers at WSU used a single-atom design that could perform just as efficiently as the natural enzymes. They called the artificial enzyme “nanozyme”. The nanozyme is composed of single iron atoms that are embedded in nitrogen-doped carbon nanotubes.
The other advantage of using nanozymes is that natural enzymes degrade when they are in acidic environments or in high temperatures. There is also a cost factor, in that using nanozymes is less expensive and they can be stored for a long time.
The researchers suggested that the nanozymes show tremendous potential to diagnose early-stage AD.
The Next Step in Testing
Testing using actual blood samples will follow. In this regard, WSU researchers were joined by scientists and researchers from Singapore and the State Universities of Oregon and California in modeling the nanozyme’s structure.
One of the scientists who has a family member with AD emphasized the impact on the daily lives of her family.