A teenager from the U.K. has designed what could be a minimally invasive test that offers an early Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Grammar school student Krtin Nithiyanandam from Surrey is one of 90 regional finalists in the 2015 Google Science Fair.
“The main benefits of my test are that it could be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms start to show by focusing on pathophysiological changes, some of which can occur a decade before symptoms are prevalent,” he tells The Daily Telegraph. Brain plaques are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, and they form when certain protein fragments clump together. The concentrations of their precursors, what’s called amyloid-beta oligomers, begin to increase in the brain during the earliest stages of the disease.
Nithiyanandam’s project centers around a quantum dot probe – what he calls a molecular Trojan Horse – that could potentially cross the blood-brain barrier, a major obstacle for current tests. After penetrating into the brain, the particles should grab hold of the toxic proteins, potentially preventing the neurodegenerative disease from progressing. Furthermore, fluorescent nanoparticles make it possible to detect their presence using non-invasive brain scans.
“Some of my new preliminary research has suggested that my diagnostic probe could simultaneously have therapeutic potential as well as diagnostic,” he says.
Of course, his work has yet to be published in a scientific journal and evaluated by scientific peers. Still, the project is a creative approach to a long-standing problem. His next steps include studying the probes in vitro.
Nithiyanandam is inspired by his biology teacher and Albert Einstein, and he hopes to pursue a career in medicine some day! Tune in on August 4th to see which projects become the 20 global finalists.