Getting the Jump on Alzheimer’s

Igor Lednev in his lab, where he created a noninvasive test to diagnose early-stage Alzheimer’s. (Photo courtesy of UAlbany Marketing Services)

ALBANY, N.Y. (August 24, 2018) — Among the many dilemmas facing researchers trying to prevent, identify or cure the progressive neurodegenerative disease Alzheimer’s is the current state of diagnostic methods — expensive, invasive, time-consuming, and applicable only at Alzheimer’s late stages. It is an unwelcome predicament in the fight against this most common form of dementia among older adults, affecting more than 5.4 million people in the United States alone.

Igor Lednev, professor in the Department of Chemistry and an affiliated scientist in UAlbany’s RNA Institute, has his sights on a quick, noninvasive test that will diagnose Alzheimer’s in its earliest stages.

His technology, patented in 2018, relies on a combination of advanced statistics and “Raman Hyperspectroscopy,” a spectroscopic technique that measures the intensity of scattered light by shining lasers on such samples as dry traces of blood or other bodily fluids. No two samples produce the same Raman spectrum, making each measurement unique.

To test his technology, Lednev built a deep ultraviolet Raman spectroscopy instrument that can identify the properties of amyloid fibrils — protein deposits found in the tissues and organs of patients with Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative diseases associated with high morbidity and mortality.

In his proof-of-concept study, Lednev analyzed blood samples from 20 Alzheimer’s patients, 10 healthy controls and 13 patients diagnosed with other neurological diseases. Lednev’s technology identified the samples correctly at a rate of over 95 percent.

It took more than four years for Lednev’s technology to move from initial application to patent, titled “Spectroscopic method for Alzheimer's disease diagnosis.” He credits UAlbany’s Office for Innovation Development and Commercialization for expertise and patience in obtaining the patent amid “a highly competitive biomedical field.”

The initial proof-of-concept study was published in the Journal of Biophotonics and funded by the National Institutes of Health. It was led by Elena Ryzhikova, who graduated from UAlbany in 2014 with a Ph.D. in chemistry. Nicole Ralbovsky, a current chemistry Ph.D. student, is working on the project now.

Through funding from SUNY’s Technology Accelerator Fund, Lednev’s lab is preparing the Raman device for use in clinical trials. Upon completion, commercialization of the technology will follow.

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