Research on a new diagnostic tool for Alzheimer’s disease presented at the 30th Annual Alzheimer Day at Northwestern University, Chicago

Posted: 15 May, 2024

Dr Vuslat Juska with her poster

The 30th Annual Alzheimer Day was held on May 3rd, 2024 in the Feinberg Pavilion Conference Center at Northwestern University’s Chicago campus. The objective of the day was to showcase, established Alzheimer’s related research conducted throughout Northwestern. This event brought together academics, medical doctors, and people affected by the disease, as well as their families and carers. This year among the presenters was Dr Vuslat Juska, an MSCA DOROTHY fellow, whose project focuses on highlighting the importance of a timely diagnosis of Alzheimer, and on developing a simple and rapid blood testing device to help detect the disease as early as possible.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most prevalent and profoundly impactful neurodegenerative disorder, accounting for 60-70% of dementia cases. The current diagnosis of AD involves medical imaging, cognitive tests, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis. Over the past years, there has been a surge in literature demonstrating the development of biosensors for AD to address the need for an AD diagnostic tool. However, existing examples often involve large experimental setups with numerous components for a single measurement or encounter challenges related to bio-fouling which affect the performance of the sensor.

Vuslat’s project aims to overcome these limitations by developing a diagnostic tool which will be similar to the home-use blood sugar testing devices for diabetes, however, instead of measuring sugar levels, it will measure biomarkers of AD using a tiny electronic probe. This probe, made with advanced technology, will be incredibly precise and small, making it more sensitive for detection of the fingerprint of AD in the blood. Ultimately, the goal of Vuslat’s research is to add an accurate technology for Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis protocols, which directly tests the blood. The global value of a statistical life-based economic burden of Alzheimer disease and related dementias was an estimated $2.8 trillion (2019) and it is projected to increase to $8.5 trillion in 2040. Clearly this probe may have societal and economic impact by providing the opportunity of a timely and early diagnosis.

During her poster session at the 30th Annual Alzheimer Day, Vuslat had the opportunity to liaise with researchers, patients, and their families. In Vuslat’s words: This was the first time I have had a chance to have conversations with the stakeholders of my project: patients and their families. This event gave me the confidence about my project’s impact and future directions. I learnt about the disease from the patients’ and their carers’ perspective. One quote touched my heart during the talks: “Younger-onset dementia is a diagnosis of the family, and its far-reaching impact is immeasurable”. As one of the most important talks delivered during the event, Vuslat singled out a presentation delivered during the “quality of life symposium” by Diana Shulla Cose, a founding executive director of the organization “Lorenzo’s House”: I have learnt about “Lorenzo’s House”, a Chicago based community which supports family members of Alzheimer’s disease patients. Their mission is to “empower families walking with younger-onset dementia shifting the narrative from isolation to connection, stigma to strength and darkness to light.”

Dr Vuslat Juska with attendees who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and their families and carers.

Vuslat’s research, currently carried out at Northwestern University, introduces a new perspective for the next generation precision diagnostics dedicated to AD. It is well-focused on reliable, user-friendly and accessible detection platform development for AD biomarkers. The next planned conference where Vuslat will be presenting her research project is the 8th International Conference on Bio-sensing Technology.

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