Press release

Nanocubes for early identification of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's


Thanks to an innovative technique for identifying the 'fingerprint' of proteins and biomarkers that are present in minute traces, an early diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's becomes possible. The technique has been developed by a research group from the Institute of Applied Physics (Ifac-Cnr), in collaboration with colleagues from the Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems (Imm-Cnr), the Department of Chemical and Geological Sciences at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and the Saratov National Research State University (Russia). The study was published in the ACS Nano Journal.

"The methodology is based on laser activation of cube-shaped silver nanocrystals (i.e. having a size of the order of a billionth of a meter), which allows the identification of molecular precursors of a disease in biological fluids (e.g. blood, urine, cerebrospinal fluid)”, explains Paolo Matteini from Ifac-Cnr, first author of the work and team coordinator. "In fact, the laser irradiation 'turns on' the nanocrystals producing an intense electric field amplification (a million times larger) of the signal of molecules adhering to the surface of the nanocrystals. The detected signal provides unique information on composition and structure of the biomolecule, which is recognized in minute traces".

"By means of a new electron scanning microscope, installed at the Catania Laboratories, an accurate analysis of the crystalline structure present at the cube corners was performed, revealing a stepped arrangement, which effectively entraps the biomolecules in solution," adds Giuseppe Nicotra, researcher at Imm-Cnr.

Experiments conducted so far have demonstrated the validity of this approach. "The method allows the development of diagnostic tests for the early detection of biomarkers of neurodegenerative disorders," concludes Roberto Pini, director at Ifac-Cnr. "The road though is still long: preliminary tests to identify the complexity of the optical fingerprint of the various biomarkers are needed for conferring reliability to this technique for clinical use."


Roma, 28 febbraio 2017



Who: Institute of Applied Physics 'Nello Carrara’ and Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems Cnr, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Saratov National Research State University (Russia)

What: The innovative method takes advantage of silver nanocrystals activated by laser, which allow a sensitive detection of molecular traces of neurodegenerative diseases. 'Site Selective Surface-Enhanced Raman Detection of Protein' by Paolo Matteini, Maximilian Cottat, Francesco Tavanti, Elizaveta Panfilova, Mario Scuderi, Giuseppe Nicotra, Maria Cristina Menziani, Nikolau Khlebtsov, Marella de Angelis and Roberto Pini, Acs Nano Link article

Contacts: Paolo Matteini, Ifac-Cnr, e-mail: