HONG KONG, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- Researchers from Hong Kong Baptist University have discovered a new nanomaterial which could enable the early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, the university announced on Tuesday.
The plaques in the brain, comprised of a protein called amyloid-beta, are one of the hallmarks of the Alzheimer's disease. The early detection of these plaques could help speed up the diagnosis of Alzheimer's and enable people to receive treatment earlier.
Fabricated using a combination of superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles and cyanine compounds, the university's study team found that the nanomaterial could easily pass through the blood-brain barrier to specifically target these amyloid-beta plaques.
Once bound to amyloid-beta, the nanomaterial fluoresces and exhibits magnetic resonance properties, enabling it to be easily detected by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and near-infrared imaging machines, which offer superior resolution and do not require an invasive radioactive trace.
"The successful diagnosis of the disease at an early stage may help delay the disease's progression," Ricky Wong Man-shing, professor from the university's Department of Chemistry, one of the leaders of the study team, said. "Current clinical methods of brain imaging using Positron Emission Tomography scans are expensive, require invasive radiative tracers and have poor visibility."
The new nanomaterial which is non-radioactive, non-toxic and able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier shows its promise for use in near-infrared imaging and MRI scanning of the brain.
As a result, its application as a contrast agent for imaging is highly important and could lead to earlier detection, and improved monitoring of Alzheimer's disease, Wong added.
The research paper of the study is published in the journal Small, and the discovery has already been granted a U.S. patent.