Comparing blood samples from six Alzheimer's patients, six healthy people and six Parkinson's disease patients, the researchers found that two of the thousands of synthetic molecules "captured" at least three-fold more immunoglobulin (IgG) antibodies from all six of the Alzheimer's patients than from either the healthy controls or the Parkinson's patients.
The synthetic molecules, in effect, acted as a lure for the antibodies -- enabling the researchers to spot biomarkers in the blood unique to those with Alzheimer's.
This process could be repeated to test for antibodies associated with other diseases as well, Kodadek theorized.
"The big advance from what people have been doing before is that this method completely removes the requirement of knowing the native antigens that triggered the immune response," Kodadek said. "The real excitement is it should allow us to identify biomarkers for any disease for which the immune system reacts."
The synthetic molecules are easily modifiable and can be produced quickly in large quantities at lower cost, Kodadek said.
However, while promising, the results are preliminary and need to be replicated in larger numbers of patients, noted Dr. Jeremy Koppel, an Alzheimer's research scientist at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y. He was not involved in the new research.
"This study represents a novel approach to the development of a noninvasive screening instrument for conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, which currently lack definitive diagnostic biomarkers," Koppel said. "Beyond diagnostics, the future identification of the biomarkers detected in this study has the potential to deepen our understanding of the disease process itself."
Another caveat is that the study was done in people
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