UMDNJ-SOM Researcher Releases Ground-Breaking Alzheimer’s Research Results

At left: Dr. Nagele and his research team: Eric Nagele, first year student at SOM; Cassandra DeMarshall, master’s student at UMDNJ-Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (UMDNJ-GSBS); and Min Han, a PhD candidate at UMDNJ-GSBS.

Robert Nagele, PhD, along with a team of researchers, has developed a ground-breaking blood test that can be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease (AD) with 96 percent accuracy. This is the first test for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, and is less invasive, less expensive and more accurate than previous tests, which predicted the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

Dr. Nagele, professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – School of Osteopathic Medicine and founder of Durin Technologies, Inc., headed the research team, which also included University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey osteopathic medical and master’s students.

The team’s research results were published in “Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease Based on Disease-Specific Autoantibody Profiles in Human Sera” in PLoS One, an online, peer-reviewed scientific journal, and “Brain-Reactive Autoantibodies Prevalent in Human Sera Increase Intraneuronal Amyloid-β1-42 Deposition,” in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Until this breakthrough, there has been no accurate or reliable test to diagnose early Alzheimer’s disease. Testing that is available many times is not utilized until patients experience Alzheimer’s disease symptoms; by then, brain cells have been damaged. Genetic testing has been available to assess the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but can run well over $300 and is only approximately 20 percent accurate when predicting whether patients will develop the disease later in life.

The new test looks for autoantibodies specifically present when proteins in the brain show that deterioration has occurred, as is seen in Alzheimer’s disease, and a major advantage of the test is that it requires only one drop of blood. According to Dr. Nagele, because the test requires such a small amount of blood, “it avoids the expense and patient discomfort of other proposed Alzheimer’s diagnostic tests, such as those involving neuroimaging techniques, more invasive procedures and hospitalization. Discovery of other disease-specific autoantibody signatures could also conceivably lead to the development of successful and relatively inexpensive diagnostics for a wide variety of diseases.” While at this time there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, patients testing positive for the autoantibodies can take certain preventive measures to delay symptoms.

Alzheimer’s disease affects nearly 36 million people worldwide, and more than 5.4 million people in the United States. Dr. Nagele hopes this discovery could one day lead to a routine diagnostic test. “There’s a dire need for an accurate, relatively non-invasive and inexpensive diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s,” he said. “A test that can not only diagnose the disease in individuals showing telltale symptoms, but possibly also detect the disease years before these symptoms appear, would make early therapeutic intervention possible. This would be a significant breakthrough as pharmaceutical companies are now working feverishly to develop new drugs that can stop or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.” Congratulations to Dr. Nagele and his team on this monumental discovery!
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October 2011
Vol. 5, No. 10