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Groundbreaking Diagnostic Technique Enables Faster and More Accurate Detection of Neurodegenerative Diseases

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 11 May 2023
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Image: New technique could enable rapid detection of neurodegenerative diseases (Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota)
Image: New technique could enable rapid detection of neurodegenerative diseases (Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota)

Neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, mad cow disease, and chronic wasting disease (CWD) all exhibit a shared characteristic: the accumulation of misfolded proteins within the central nervous system. Identifying these misfolded proteins is vital for understanding and diagnosing these diseases. However, existing diagnostic techniques, such as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and immunohistochemistry, may be costly, labor-intensive, and restrictive in terms of antibody specificity. Now, scientists have designed an innovative diagnostic procedure that enables quicker and more precise detection of neurodegenerative diseases, offering prospects for earlier intervention and management.

The technique, called Nano-QuIC (Nanoparticle-enhanced Quaking-Induced Conversion), has been devised by researchers at University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN, USA) and significantly improves the performance of advanced protein-misfolding detection methods like the NIH Rocky Mountain Laboratories' Real-Time Quaking-Induced Conversion (RT-QuIC) assay. With Nano-QuIC, the detection times are drastically cut down from around 14 hours to a mere four hours, while the sensitivity is heightened tenfold. This rapid and highly precise detection technique is particularly critical for comprehending and controlling the transmission of CWD, a disease rampant among deer in North America, Scandinavia, and South Korea. The scientists are hopeful that Nano-QuIC could eventually be instrumental in detecting protein-misfolding diseases in humans, particularly Parkinson's, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Alzheimer's, and ALS.

“This research mainly focuses on CWD in deer, but ultimately our goal is to expand the technology for a broad spectrum of neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s being the two main targets,” said Sang-Hyun Oh, senior co-author of the paper and a professor in the College of Science and Engineering. “Our vision is to develop ultra-sensitive, powerful diagnostic techniques for a variety of neurodegenerative diseases so that we can detect biomarkers early on, perhaps allowing more time for the deployment of therapeutic agents that can slow down the disease progression. We want to help improve the lives of millions of people affected by neurodegenerative diseases.”

“Testing for these neurodegenerative diseases in both animals and humans has been a major challenge to our society for decades,” said Peter Larsen, senior co-author of the paper and an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “What we’re seeing now is this really exciting time when new, next generation diagnostic tests are emerging for these diseases. The impact that our research has is that it’s greatly improving upon those next generation tests, it’s making them more sensitive and it’s making them more accessible.”

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