Rethinking Healthcare

Simple eyedrops can diagnose Alzheimer's, prion diseases

Simple eyedrops can diagnose Alzheimer's, prion diseases

Posting in Technology

Scientists have devised several fluorescent probes that change color depending on the specific biomarkers associated with different neural diseases.

Amyloids are these sticky plaques of protein that mark several different but related degenerative neural diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and prion diseases.

And because amyloids accumulate in the eye as well as the brain, diagnosing these diseases could one day be as simple as using eye drops and an eye exam.

To that end, researchers have devised several new fluorescent probes that change color depending on what type of amyloid they encounter, according to the University of California, San Diego news release.

“The key trick here is that the small differences in the proteins that make up different forms of amyloid interact differently with our fluorescent probes to result in measurably different colors of the emitted light,” says study researcher Jerry Yang of UCSD.

The colors vary depending on the physical properties of pockets in the different amyloid proteins:

Diagnostics that can distinguish between different, but closely related diseases – especially those where symptoms and pathological characteristics show many similarities – would be very important for deciding on effective treatment strategies for specific diseases.

By using an ointment or eye drops loaded with these fluorescent markers, doctors could light up amyloids in the eye in different colors. The technology has been licensed for commercial development of diagnostic tests for human neural disease.

The study is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society this week.

[Via UCSD news]

Image: UCSD

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Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure