Scientists at University of Limerick are to lead a €5.4m EU-wide research project to pioneer a nanoscope to screen patient cells and potentially help with the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.
The research team based at the Materials and Surface Science Institute (MSSI) at UL is leading the 11-member European team, LANIR (Label Free Nanoscopy Using Infra-Red).
The project includes six SMEs from across Europe, including Limerick-based company NT-MDT Ireland, which will be providing key input into implementing a commercialisable table-top prototype.
According to the scientists, more than 44,000 people are affected by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in Ireland. There are also apparently 7.7m new cases of dementia each year across the globe.
At the minute, there is no test to detect Alzheimer’s disease.
"Early detection of Alzheimer’s is critical in developing effective treatments for the disease and there is currently no test available. Our technique would be able to detect Alzheimer’s-related amyloid plaques in the early stage with much more detail," said Dr Syed Tofail, lead scientist on the project.
He said the prototype, when developed, would be easy to use, flexible and allow direct imaging of the chemistry and the structure of very small features.
The nanoscope technique is to work by deploying infra-red radiation as a source of detection. The scientists said it would break away from its physical diffraction limit so as to see features as small as 70 nanometers in lateral dimension, which is comparable to the size of a virus.
They said the technique is also capable of seeing buried features without the need for destroying the surface of a cell or a material.
LANIR research has received funding from the EU’s FP7 programme.