Dübendorf/St.Gallen - The length of protein fibrils in spinal fluid is an indication of the stage of Alzheimer’s. This has now been proven for the first time by researchers from the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology and the Cantonal Hospital of St.Gallen.

A research team from the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) and the Cantonal Hospital of St.Gallen has moved a major step closer to the early detection of Alzheimer’s. Previous detection methods have only been able to confirm and quantify the presence of suspicious proteins, while the new test can visualize them and therefore recognize their shape.

When analyzing the size, structure, shape and assembly patterns of protein accumulations directly in spinal fluid, the team has now been able to identify a link to disease stage, further details of which can be found in a press release. Accordingly, ultra-long protein fibrils are a clear indicator of Alzheimer’s disease.

“While only short protein fibrils, about 100 nanometers in length, were found in people at an early stage of the disease, fibrils with multiples of this length - reaching several micrometers - appeared in later stages of the disease”, as Peter Mirmalraj, biophysicist from the Empa lab Transport at Nanoscale Interfaces in Dübendorf in the canton of Zurich, explains in the press release.

These morphological observations in the nanometer range are possible using atomic force microscopy (AFM). This device, which is roughly the size of a conventional table-top microscope, does not destroy the proteins. After the pilot studies with 33 people, the team will now focus on comparing the collected findings with the data from larger groups of patients. In addition, further research will be carried out to examine the chemical properties of the proteins in various body fluids. ce/mm

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