Faster, More Accurate Tests for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Nano-QuIC

Key Points:

  • Researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities have developed a new diagnostic technique to detect neurodegenerative diseases.
  • The technique, called Nano-QuIC, can detect biomarkers early on, allowing for earlier treatment and mitigation of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and chronic wasting disease (CWD).
  • The addition of 50-nanometer silica nanoparticles to RT-QuIC experiments dramatically reduces detection times from about 14 hours to only four hours and increases the sensitivity by a factor of 10.

Scientists at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities have come up with a new diagnostic technique that will make it easier to detect neurodegenerative diseases. This method could help detect biomarkers earlier, giving doctors more time to use treatment to slow down the progression of diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and chronic wasting disease (CWD) that affects animals like deer.

The researchers used a method called Nano-QuIC (Nanoparticle-enhanced Quaking-Induced Conversion) to improve the detection of misfolded proteins in the central nervous system. These misfolded proteins are what cause neurodegenerative diseases, and detecting them early is crucial to understanding and diagnosing these diseases.

In their study published in Nano Letters, the team used tissue samples from deer to show that the addition of 50-nanometer silica nanoparticles to Real-Time Quaking-Induced Conversion (RT-QuIC) experiments reduced detection times from about 14 hours to only four hours. It also increased sensitivity by a factor of 10, making it easier to detect the biomarkers that indicate the presence of neurodegenerative diseases.

The scientists hope that the Nano-QuIC technique will eventually help to detect neurodegenerative diseases in humans, including Parkinson’s, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, Alzheimer’s, and ALS. “Testing for these neurodegenerative diseases in both animals and humans has been a major challenge to our society,” said Peter Larsen, senior co-author of the paper and an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences.

The research was funded by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station Rapid Agricultural Response Fund, and the Minnesota Agricultural, Research, Education, Extension and Technology Transfer (AGREETT) program.

The team behind the study hopes that their new method will help improve the lives of millions of people affected by neurodegenerative diseases. “What we’re seeing now is this really exciting time when new, next-generation diagnostic tests are emerging for these diseases,” said Larsen. “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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