Australian scientists, including an Indian-origin researcher, have unveiled a groundbreaking, cost-effective, and non-invasive blood test capable of predicting the risk of Alzheimer's disease up to two decades before clinical symptoms manifest. Researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) achieved this feat by merging nanotechnology with artificial intelligence (AI) to scrutinise blood proteins for early indicators of neurodegeneration or "biomarkers" signalling the onset of Alzheimer's.
The core of this innovation lies in an ultra-thin silicon chip fitted with "nanopores" – minuscule nanometer-sized openings that meticulously analyse proteins using a sophisticated AI algorithm. A small blood sample is applied to this chip, which is then inserted into a portable device about the size of a mobile phone. This device employs the AI algorithm to search for distinctive protein signatures associated with the early stages of Alzheimer's.
Although Alzheimer's currently lacks a cure, ANU researcher Shankar Dutt pointed out that identifying an individual's Alzheimer's risk two decades in advance could significantly enhance patient outcomes. Dutt emphasised that individuals armed with such early knowledge could embark on proactive lifestyle adjustments and adopt medication strategies that might slow down disease progression.
The research team has further highlighted the adaptability of their algorithm, which, as detailed in the journal Small Methods, can be programmed to simultaneously screen for multiple neurological conditions, including Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
In contrast to the invasive and expensive hospital procedures traditionally employed for early detection of Alzheimer's, such as lumbar punctures, the ANU technique requires only a small blood sample. Patients could receive their test results in near-real-time. The simplicity and speed of this test make it suitable for general practitioners and other clinicians, eliminating the need for hospital visits. This development is especially advantageous for individuals residing in remote and regional areas.