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UCF researchers are teaming up with Boston University to develop a miniature diagnostic tool kit that will detect the early onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
By Monica Agatstein
According to the World Alzheimer Report, which is published by Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI), an estimated 35.6 million people worldwide will be living with dementia in 2010. The disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the nation.
"Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease are going to affect society in a big way because so many people are going to be affected in the next year or so," said Sudipta Seal, director of UCF's NanoScience Technology and Advanced Materials Processing and Analysis Center. "Early detection of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's is very important and that is what we're going to do."
The $346,000 collaborative research project is being funded by the National Science Foundation and will take place over the course of three years, Seal said.
Seal is also working with Hyoung-Jin Cho, an associate professor of mechanical, materials and aerospace engineering and a researcher at the NanoScience Technology Center.
"If we can understand what is causing these diseases, we can have better care in the future," Seal said.
The device is being built at UCF while research is also being conducted at Boston University with Dr. Lee Goldstein. Goldstein is an associate professor in psychiatry, neurology, ophthalmology, pathology and laboratory medicine, and biomedical engineering and photonics. He was introduced to Seal at a conference where they discussed their research. That interaction led to the collaboration on the project.
The main goal is to understand the basic biology of these diseases and this tool will also enable the development of new diagnostics and new treatments, Goldstein said.
The project will use "nanoparticles on a chip about the size of a credit card to detect damaging levels of oxygen byproducts in the central nervous system," according to a UCF News & Information article. The byproducts, known as reactive oxygen species, are a main component of serious neurodegenerative diseases, and the research conducted throughout this project will give a better understanding of these byproducts, potentially giving way to more effective treatments.
The early symptoms of dementia include memory loss, difficulty performing familiar tasks, problems with language, disorientation to time and place, poor or decreased judgment, problems with keeping track of things, changes in mood or behavior, changes in personality and loss of initiative, according to ADI.
An existing diagnosis process involves studying the history of the person's problem from a close relative or friend in addition to an examination of the person's physical and mental status. There is no simple test and dementia can only be confirmed by an examination of the brain post-mortem, according to ADI.
The new device will be more sensitive and cost effective. After three years the project is planned to move to animal trial and the device may be completed in an estimated seven to nine years, Seal said.
"I believe that the number [of people with Alzheimer's] is significantly larger than those who are diagnosed because we are unable to detect the disease early or separate it from other disorders," Goldstein said. "We're dealing with a national health care crisis and there is a tremendous urgency for this."
About University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida is one of the most dynamic universities in the country. Offering 225 degree programs, it has become an academic and research leader in numerous fields, such as optics, modeling and simulation, engineering and computer science, business administration, education, science, hospitality management and digital media.
UCF’s 1,415-acre main campus provides modern facilities, most of which have wireless abilities, with 600 acres set aside for lakes, woods and an arboretum. UCF now has 12 colleges, including the newly established College of Medicine, and College of Graduate Studies. More than 53,000 students attend classes on UCF's main campus and its 11 regional campuses located throughout Central Florida. UCF has granted more than 186,000 degrees in its 40 years of offering classes.
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