With the aging of populations worldwide, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s occurs more frequently, and there is therefore a need to develop technologies to address this tragic health problem.
Autophagy is a protein degradative pathway, that is dysfunctional in human neurodegeneration such as in Alzheimer’s disease, but there is currently no means to quantitatively assess this critical system, and hence candidate drugs that are thought to modulate autophagy cannot be accurately screened.
The Autophagic Flux Biosensor technology allows the quantification of the autophagic flux in a rapid and effective manner, and will consist of a unique nano-biosensor with a software readout component that delivers autophagic flux numerically, comparable to a routinely-used blood glucose or cholesterol test.
The project intends to leverage the benefits to the health care and biomedical industry, to accelerate diagnosis and drug development in Alzheimer’s disease but also cancer and aging. The potential sectors are the key beneficiaries and that are likely to pay for the problem solution are the health sector (clinicians, biomedical applications, pathology services) as well as the pharmaceutical industry (drug development platforms). The desire to have the problem solved is substantial. In 2009, the global societal cost/socio-economic disease burden for neurodegenerative disase was estimated at $422 billion and the patient number is estimated to rise to 107 million by 2050. Hence, the groups of people and associated industries that are likely to need this technology are substantial.
The distinctive feature of the Biosensor is the highly sensitive detection unit that is coupled to a unique computational interface that enables the calculation of autophagic activity based on the relative abundance of key autophagic flux response proteins. The biosensor is versatile, highly cost-effective, the interface user friendly and easy to use.
The sensing device, connected to a laptop, detects a unique signature of flux specific proteins. The sensing device measures protein binding in a highly sensitive manner, by using antibody-coated carbon-nano fibers. The antibodies are directed against the flux specific proteins. Magnitude of binding is detected through resistance readings, which are concomitantly recorded and used to indicate the level of autophagic activity. The sensor is hence decorated with a unique composition of selected proteins that change with increased autophagy. The resistance readings therefore report on and reflect this change in autophagic activity. Since resistance change of the known flux samples serve as inherent sensor standards, the flux of an unknown sample can be derived based on the resistance change caused.
A patent application for the prototype sensing device as well as for the flux calculation software will be filed shortly.