A research team from Swansea University’s Institute for Innovative Materials, Processing, and Numerical Technologies (IMPACT) and from Japan has been awarded £1.3 million ($1.6 million) to develop a new “point-of-care testing” kit that can detect biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease. The project follows work in this area by Sanjiv Sharma, PhD, senior lecturer in medical engineering and biomedical engineering, Swansea University, and the development of a COVID-19 “smart patch.”

Compared to hypodermic single needles, a smart patch consists of a collection of microneedles created to break the skin barrier in a minimally invasive manner, similar to a nicotine patch. Their design means they can be developed to identify and monitor specific biomarkers in the skin.

This new project will have Sharma lead a consortium of scientists from Swansea University, Imperial College London, and the University of Glasgow. Kaori Tsukakoshi, PhD, assistant professor, will steer researchers from the Tokyo University of Agriculture & Technology and the National Institutes for Quantum Science & Technology. Together they plan to create a point-of-care testing kit to facilitate early diagnosis and monitoring of disease progression in primary clinics or home settings.

“Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most prevalent form of dementia,” said Sharma. “It is currently untreatable and associated with a high social and familial burden, for which national health systems are not prepared, constituting a major challenge for sustainable development.

“As disease modifying-treatments (DMT) for AD are becoming a possibility, evidence suggests any effective preventive or DMT must be started early in the disease process, stressing the importance of an early diagnosis based on easily accessible biomarkers.  Thus, the development of non-invasive markers of AD pathology in blood and skin samples is essential for screening the elderly population with memory complaints and could represent the first step to determine individuals at greatest risk of AD dementia.”

“In the last decade, blood biomarkers for AD diagnosis have been extensively studied and are finally being established,” added Tsukakoshi. “Our collaborative research focusing on the development of the point-of-care testing device for the AD biomarkers would facilitate a new diagnostic process of AD, which will enable more patients with AD to be led to upcoming DMT for AD.”

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