Researchers' biomarker discovery could help those with Alzheimer's

Scientists from U.K.'s National Physical Laboratory's biotechnology group have found a new strategy to enable quicker, more precise detection of biomarkers. And they are hopeful the technique is a step towards tools to detect Alzheimer's and cancer at the molecular level.

"This new strategy uses a probe to 'fish' for likely proteins, selecting them from a crowded blood sample," says Max Ryadnov, principal research scientist in the group. "A microgel probe works like a sponge, picking up proteins which have a charge or mass within a certain range." Mass spectrometry can then be used to see whether the biomarker is present in this more select sample.

The team tested the probe on fluids containing human growth hormone. It is typically found in blood at very low levels, at around 100 nanograms per milliliter. However, the probe was able to pick up the hormone even when only 40 nanograms per milliliter were present. This new strategy also could cut the time needed to search for a biomarker in a fluid. "You can do it in a day instead of a few days or even a week," explains Ryadnov.

The research was published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Molecular BioSystems.

- see the NPL release