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17 Jul 2023

By combining multiple advanced technologies into a single system, EPFL researchers have made a significant step forward in diagnosing neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs) such as Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This novel device is known as the ImmunoSEIRA sensor, a biosensing technology that enables the detection and identification of misfolded protein biomarkers associated with NDDs. The research, published today in Science Advances, also harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) by employing neural networks to quantify disease stages and progression. This significant technological advance holds promise not only for early detection and monitoring of NDDs, but also for assessing treatment options at various stages of the disease’s progression. Treatment of neurodegenerative diseases faces a significant challenge due to the lack of effective diagnostic methods for early detection and monitoring of disease progression. Protein misfolding, a common mechanism in neurodegeneration, has been identified as a key event in disease progression. To create this advanced NDD biomarker sensor, researchers at Professor Hatice Altug’s Bionanophotonic Systems Laboratory (BIOS) and Professor Hilal Lashuel’s Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology and Neuroproteomics (LMNN) have combined multiple fields of science: protein biochemistry, optofluidics, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence (AI). “Unlike current biochemical approaches which rely on measuring the levels of these molecules, our approach is focused on detecting their abnormal structures. This technology also allows us to differentiate the levels of the two main abnormal forms implicated in the development and progression of NDDs, oligomers and fibrils,” says Lashuel. The ImmunoSEIRA sensor employs a technology called surface-enhanced infrared absorption (SEIRA) spectroscopy. This method allows scientists to detect and analyze the forms of specific disease-associated molecules, known as biomarkers, associated with neurodegenerative diseases. The sensor is equipped with a unique immunoassay, which acts like a molecular detective, identifying and capturing these biomarkers with high precision.

Prof. Hilal Lashuel is the Scientific and Technological Achievement TAKREEM Laureate of 2020. He is an associate professor of life sciences and the director of the Laboratory of Molecular and Chemical Biology of Neurodegeneration at the Brain Mind Institute at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne or EPFL).

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