Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have invented a new blood test known as Amplified Plasmonic Exosome (Apex), capable of detecting a molecule that indicates early-stage Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Doctors will be able to diagnose AD and monitor a patient’s response to treatment by doing a simple blood test using the APEX system.

The APEX test has been designed to pick up an early-stage molecular marker of AD, the aggregated amyloid beta (Aβ) and could potentially diagnose the disease prior to the appearance of clinical symptoms.

The 12-member research team was led by the NUS Institute for Health Innovation & Technology assistant professor Shao Huilin.

Huilin said: “There is currently no good blood-based method to effectively screen and monitor AD. New tests that are under investigation have either poor accuracy or low sensitivity.

“The APEX technology addresses both of these limitations and is therefore a very powerful and objective companion diagnostic system to complement existing clinical and neuropsychological tests for early detection and better management of AD.”

The highly sensitive technology provides an accurate diagnosis at about $30 per test. It is capable of detecting and analysing the earliest aggregated forms of Aβ proteins in blood samples.

NUS researchers noted that the existing design could test 60 samples at a time and the results will be available in less than one hour.

The APEX system performs direct measurement as it uses native blood plasma without additional sample processing.

The latest development provides a solution to ‘capture’ and measure the meaningful AD molecules in blood samples and amplify them for analysis.

Huilin added: “As blood tests are relatively easy to administer, APEX can be also used to monitor a patient’s response to treatment. Furthermore, this technology can be easily scaled up for large cohort clinical validations and drug evaluation.”

Each APEX chip is 3cm by 3cm and contains 60 sensors that analyse one blood sample.

The device is expected to be launched within the next five years.