The plaques in the brain comprising a protein called amyloid-beta, are one of the hallmarks of the Alzheimer’s disease.
The early detection of these plaques could help speed up the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and enable people to receive treatment earlier.
The university’s study team found that the nanomaterial could easily pass through the blood-brain barrier to specifically target these amyloid-beta plaques.
“The successful diagnosis of the disease at an early stage may help delay the disease’s progression,’’ said Ricky Wong Man-shing, a professor from the university’s department of chemistry.
According to Man-shing, current clinical methods of brain imaging, using positron emission tomography scans are expensive, require invasive radiative tracers and have poor visibility.
The new nanomaterial, which is non-radioactive, non-toxic and able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier shows its promise for use in near-infrared imaging and MRI scanning of the brain.
“As a result, its application as a contrast agent for imaging is highly important and could lead to earlier detection, and improved monitoring of Alzheimer’s disease,’’ Man-shing said.
The research paper of the study is published in the Journal Small and the discovery has already been granted a US patent.