The excellence pillar FET Open of the H2020 programme has awarded the disruptive idea and the related scientific approach of the project ‘SensApp’ (Super-sensitive detection of Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers in plasma by an innovative droplet split-and-stack approach). The project aims at solving the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease by a simple blood test.
The project started on the 1st day of January 2019 and is financed by the Research Executive Agency of the European Commission. The Institute of Applied Sciences and Intelligent Systems (Isasi) of the Cnr is the coordinator. “SensApp has been granted 3MEur for developing an innovative super-sensor system able to detect low abundant biomarkers specific for the Alzheimer’s disease in human plasma and, in case of success, it would revolutionize the field” says Simonetta Grilli, researcher at Cnr-Isasi and coordinator of the project. “The key enabling technology is radically new and we call it ‘droplet-split-and-stack’. It is based on the pyroelectric effect and allows us to overcome the diffusion limits encountered in conventional immunoreactions,” specifies Simonetta Grilli.
Estimates vary, but experts evaluated that nowadays around 30 millions of people are affected by Alzheimer’s disease and this number is expected to rise up rapidly in the next years due to the increased expectation of life. The clinical practice requires retrieving an aliquot of cerebrospinal fluid from the patient through a lumbar puncture and to perform standard immunoassay tests for quantitative determination of the above-mentioned markers. However, this procedure is highly invasive for the patient and not always practicable. The result is that currently the Alzheimer’s disease cannot be diagnosed clearly in the first stage of development, with huge socio-economic impact. The low abundance of the above-mentioned markers in peripheral plasma prevents clinicians to perform the determination by standard procedures which sensitivity falls in the range of 50-100 pg/υL.
“SensApp aims at break this limit by developing a super-sensor able to detect Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers in very small volumes of human plasma, thus avoiding the invasive lumbar puncture and pushing the sensitivity well below 1 pg/υL” says Simonetta Grilli. This system could open the route to a reliable and early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in the first stage by using a simple blood test, thus leading to a faster and more appropriate therapeutic intervention. “SensApp is a beautiful example of excellence research project with a disruptive character and a potential high impact on the society, that we like very much to pursuing at Institute of Applied Sciences and Intelligent Systems” says Pietro Ferraro, the Director of Cnr-Isasi and research scientist involved in the project.
The project consortium is formed by six European research groups: National Research Council (Cnr)-coordinator (IT), Vrije University of Bruxelles (B), IRCCS Centro Neurolesi Bonino Pulejo (IT), University of Linz (A), VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (FIN) and one company GNOLIS (FIN). The Cnr unit is composed of Cnr-Isasi researchers and of associated researchers of the Department of Chemical, Materials and Production Engineering (University of Naples Federico II). The financing from the European Commission will allow the recruitment of different young and post-doc researchers.
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