Jul 17, 2019 | Updated: 11:17 AM EDT

Detecting Parkinson's disease using nanotechnology

Mar 19, 2019 08:35 PM EDT

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Dopamine
(Photo : Pixabay)

University of Central Florida researchers was able to develop a new technique in detecting Parkinson's disease. Their findings were published in the journal Nano Letters

Dopamine is a chemical that sends messages to the brain regarding movement and coordination. A low dopamine level makes it more difficult for a person to control his movements. 

Researches show that the level of dopamine is related to some cancers and Parkinson's disease and depression. This new method only needs a few drops of blood with results available in minutes. There is no other necessary lab required in sample processing. 

The World Health Organization reports that there are approximately 4 million people around the world who are suffering from Parkinson's disease. 

Present techniques in dopamine detection involve exhaustive preparation of samples and a time-consuming procedure. These also require specialized laboratory equipment. The current technique only utilizes a rectangular chip that is the size of a palm that needs only a few drops of blood. 

"A neurotransmitter like dopamine is an important chemical to monitor for our overall well-being so we can help screen out neural disorders like Parkinson's disease, various brain cancers, and monitor mental health," said Debashis Chanda, an associate professor in UCF's NanoScience Technology Center and the study's principle investigator. "We need to monitor dopamine so that we can adjust our medical doses to help address those problems."

The chip separates the plasma from the blood. The sensor coated with cerium oxide nanoparticles capture dopamine selectively at microscopic levels from the plasma. Reflection of light is changed through the capture of dopamine molecules that produce an optical readout that shows dopamine levels. 

The sensor's sensitivity is optimized because of the use of cerium oxide nanoparticles, according to Sudipta Seal, an engineering professor and chair of UCF's Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

"Getting the sensor to be sensitive to dopamine had been quite the challenge for researchers for a while, but using altered cerium oxide nanostructures on the sensing platform was key in making the sensor work," Seal said.

The other co-author was Abraham Vázquez-Guardado, a graduate of UCF's College of Optics and Photonics and now a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University.

This method allows the test to be done by a simple layperson, said Vazquez-Guardado. 

"There is no preprocessing needed," he said. "Our plan was to make a much quicker, enzyme-free kind of detection."

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