Scientists at the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Nanodevice Fabrication Group in Canada are developing a new biosensor that can detect Alzheimer’s disease.

The extremely sensitive, two-electrode diode biosensor can also be used to screen for other diseases.

It can detect a cytokine known as Tumour Necrosis Factor alpha (TNF alpha), which is involved with inflammation in the body.

Additionally, the biosensor can detect TNF alpha in very low concentrations (10fM), which is well below the concentrations of 200fM to 300fM that are normally observed in healthy blood samples.

Abnormal levels of cytokine have been linked to cancers and Alzheimer’s as well as diseases of the heart, autoimmune and cardiovascular systems.

Simon Fraser University Engineering Science assistant professor Michael Adachi said: “Our goal is to develop a sensor that’s less invasive, less expensive and simpler to use than existing methods.

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“These sensors are also small and have potential to be placed in doctor’s offices to help diagnose different diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.”

Adachi is serving as the co-lead for the biosensor project.

According to Adachi, several established methods are currently available to identify biomarker proteins, such as the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and mass spectrometry.

However, these existing methods are expensive and have several drawbacks.

The team has completed the proof-of-concept stage and proved that the sensor can detect TNF alpha in a laboratory setting.

The biosensor is now expected to be tested in clinical trials to discover if it can identify biomarker proteins effectively within a blood sample, which contains various interfering proteins and substances.

SFU’s Technology Licensing Office (TLO) has received a provisional patent application for the biosensor from the team.