Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Rapid screening for Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease is one of the most complicated disorders that affect the brain with most of its various aspects being still an unresolved mystery to scientists. Nevertheless, research activities continue to bring improved understanding of the diseases and more accurate and effective diagnosis.
Rapid screening for Alzheimer's disease
This disease was named after a German physician, Dr. Alois Alzheimer who was the first scientist that described this disease back in 1906. Although it was initially considered as rare, raw statistics show that one in 10 persons over 65 and nearly half of those over 85 have Alzheimer's disease. Most importantly, Alzheimer's disease is one of the key causes of dementia, which is a generalised term for many symptoms related to the weakening of mental alacrity.

The biology of Alzheimer's disease involves the formation of abnormal structures in the brain, such as amyloid plaques. These are masses of protein fragments that accumulate outside of cells and may reflect deranged processing of proteins. Ongoing studies of biochemical and molecular pathways that regulate protein secretions have proved among others that the activation of specific Protein Kinase C (PKC) is involved. The latter is responsible for the regulation of cell transformation, growth, differentiation, apoptosis (cell death), and gene expression.

Within this context, French researchers have recently developed an effective diagnostic method that relies on the study of the PKC activation state in red blood cells. Employing a fluorescent probe the PKC catalytic site is identified by non-invasive means in the most inexpensive and rapid way. The technique has been successfully tested using a sample of 35 patients of Alzheimer's disease in comparison to measurements from 35 age-matched healthy controls.

The laboratory is looking for collaborations in order to verify the specificity of the measurements for Alzheimer's against other neurodegenerative diseases and they have already run some tests against Parkinson's disease. Additionally, the assessment of the predictive value of the measurement on aged patients and on demented patients under treatment is also sought. By optimising the measurement conditions in order to achieve a greater number of fast tests in a clinical environment, the patented technique may result into the production of a test kit prototype.
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