Why the need for a diagnostic tool?

In Europe more than 5.7 million people suffer from dementia, 50-60% of which from Alzheimer´s Disease (AD). Its occurrence is continuously increasing due the aging of the population. As dementia lead to dramatic and long term suffering for the patients and their families, it is thus a major societal problem. It is also a growing cost burden to the European economy and social security systems. Today, the costs in Europe related to Alzheimer´s Disease are estimated to 55 billion Euros per year. These diseases most often have a slow evolution, without clinically clear symptoms for often more than 10 years. No cure for the disease’s damage exists, but intense and promising efforts towards neuroprotective drugs able to retard its evolution are currently under development. Therefore the earliest the disease is detected and diagnosed the better the chances for better treatment. 

So far, AD can only be diagnosed by the occurrence of a typical combination of clinical symptoms, while molecular or imaging techniques are mainly used to exclude other diseases. Neurochemical markers in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) seem to monitor disease evolution earlier than what is possible with imaging. Unfortunately, lumbar puncture is an invasive and delicate method, which cannot be used for screening, and is restricted to patients with significant symptoms. In summary, no technique exists so far for large scale population screening in a preventive approach.                                   

Thus, it is particularly crucial to develop minimally invasive, sensitive and low cost tools able to detect relevant AD biomarkers in more easily available body fluids, such as blood. Recent evidence suggests that supramolecular characteristics of some biomarkers, such as the state of oligomeric aggregation of Ab-peptides, or the presence of protofibrils, might be of major diagnostic value. These characteristics are difficult to identify by conventional biochemical techniques, and require specific nanoscience tools.

The technological challenge behind Nadine

NADINE will address this challenge of a critical need for novel reliable tools for the early, differential, potentially predictive, and minimally invasive diagnosis of neurodegenerative disorders. To be widely usable, the system should be fully integrated and highly automated. It should also identify and quantify accurately a multiplicity of molecular biomarkers, as well as non-conventional supramolecular biomarkers such as nano-aggregates. Besides its obvious applications in diagnosis, this new technology will also have applications in drug development, for follow-up of complex biomarker signatures during disease evolution, and clinical trials.

The scientific and technological objectives

  1. Development of innovative nanoparticles for imuno-capturing and -detection 
  2. Improved micro-nanofluidic technologies
  3. Improved electrophoretic separations and detection sensitivity on chip at the pico- or femtomolar level
  4. Development of innovative microarrays on chip
  5. Development of diagnostic signature approaches based on innovative bioinformatics tools
  6. Integration of multimodal protein and peptide analysis in a single, fully integrated microfluidic system
  7. Development of a fully integrated prototype for the minimally invasive diagnosis for neurodegenerative diseases
  8. Societal and industrial objectives towards diagnostic instruments addressing major challenges in predictive medicine, and preparing next-generation bioanalysis technologies
  9. Opening the route to new classes of applications not yet covered by microfluidic systems
16 JANUARY 2021