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New Smart Patch Helps Detect Neurodegenerative Diseases

A new “smart patch” has been developed by a chief scientist from Swansea University. The device can detect proinflammatory biomarkers of neurodegenerative diseases (like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) via microneedle technology.

Dr Sanjiv Sharma of Swansea University has developed a new ‘smart patch’ that can detect proinflammatory biomarkers of neurodegenerative diseases (such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s) through the use of microneedle technology. Image Credit: Swansea University.

This discovery in the progress of transdermal capability would imply that “smart patches” can be utilized to detect biomarkers within skin interstitial fluid (ISF) by adopting a “bloodless” method.

These patches are made of arrays of small needles (microneedles) that have been specifically developed to break the skin barrier in a minimally invasive manner. The patches track the biomarkers of clinical significance.

It is possible for them to be self-administered for point-of-care diagnosis at GP practices or even at home. This groundbreaking research could alter the landscape of early neurodegenerative disease diagnosis.

Dr Sanjiv Sharma, who earlier developed the first COVID-19 “smart patch” commented:

The skin is the largest organ in the body—it contains more ISF than the total volume of blood. This fluid is an ultrafiltrate of blood and holds biomarkers that complement other biofluids such as sweat, saliva, and urine. It can be sampled in a minimally invasive manner and used either for point of care testing or real time using microneedle devices.”

Sharma continued, “We employed microneedle array-based biosensing patches as wearable transdermal sensors to detect the proinflammatory cytokine IL-6. IL-6 is present in the skin ISF with other cytokines and is implicated in many clinical states including neurodegenerative diseases and fatal pneumonia from SARSCoV 2.”

We have been able to detect IL-6 at concentrations as low as 1 pg/mL in synthetic skin ISF, indicating its utility for routine point of care, bloodless measurements in simpler settings, worldwide,” added Sharma.

Sharma concluded, “The devices we developed are scalable, and the resulting sensor has a short measurement time (6 minutes), with high accuracy and a low limit of detection. This new diagnostic tool, for screening of inflammatory biomarkers in point of care testing, will see the skin act as a window to the body and vital organs such as the brain.”

This work was done in partnership with Biomark, ISEP, Porto, Portugal.

Biomark ISEP Porto have pioneered applications of molecular imprinted polymers (MIPs) and extended them to different healthcare applications. Together with Swansea's expertise in transdermal diagnostics we have demonstrated that the MIPs together with the microneedle arrays offers a fantastic platform for the development of point of care devices for bloodless testing.

Felismina Moreira, Study Co-Author, School of Engineering, Polytechnic Institute

Moreira added, “These can be extended to diagnostics for cardiovascular, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders.”

At present, Swansea University is working with its research collaborators in the UK, France, Portugal, and Japan towards promoting the field of transdermal diagnostics and expanding it to develop diagnostic devices for various healthcare applications.

The IMPACT operation has been partially funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and Swansea University.

Journal Reference:

Oliveira, D., et al. (2022) Molecular Imprinted Polymers on Microneedle Arrays for Point of Care Transdermal Sampling and Sensing of Inflammatory Biomarkers. ACS Omega. doi.org/10.1021/acsomega.2c04789.

Source: https://www.swansea.ac.uk/

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