Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have developed a wireless handheld device initially designed to detect COVID-19. Using short strands of DNA or RNA called aptamers, the device has now shown promise in detecting molecules linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Here’s how it works: When specific biomolecules associated with these diseases, such as beta-amyloid and tau for Alzheimer’s and α-synuclein for Parkinson’s, bind to the device’s single-atom-thick graphene layer, electrical energy flows, giving a positive reading.
The study demonstrated the device’s ability to detect these molecules accurately, even at low concentrations. Dr. Ratnesh Lal, the lead author, highlighted the device’s sensitivity, emphasizing its strength in avoiding confusing results due to cross-reactivity.
In future studies, the researchers aim to explore detecting these molecules in blood plasma, cerebrospinal fluid, saliva, and urine. Seeing early signs of Alzheimer’s in blood and saliva is an area of active research, but challenges remain, such as identifying the best biomarkers and ensuring consistent pathology tests.
The researchers plan to seek FDA approval for the device in the coming months, to have it on the market within a year.
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