Light-based bomb-detecting technology can also diagnose early dementia

An IED detection method can also be used to highlight vitamin B12 in human blood towards a dementia diagnosis.

A laser shines through a blood sample to make vitamin B12 molecules vibrate, facilitating a light-based measurement that can diagnose dementia. (Image credit: University of Adelaide)
A laser shines through a blood sample to make vitamin B12 molecules vibrate, facilitating a light-based measurement that can diagnose dementia. (Image credit: University of Adelaide)

IMAGE: A laser shines through a blood sample to make vitamin B12 molecules vibrate, facilitating a light-based measurement that can diagnose dementia. (Image credit: University of Adelaide)

University of Adelaide (South Australia) researchers developed an improvised explosive device (IED) detection method in 2014 that used light intensity to determine the presence of explosive residue. Now, the same method is being used to highlight vitamin B12 in diluted human blood, with the potential to mature into a diagnosis tool for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

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Lead investigator Georgios Tsiminis said the technique was still being modified for commercial use but could also be used to detect a range of different molecules useful in identifying other diseases. "We shine a light onto a blood sample that gives us a measurement of the amount of vitamin B12, which is linked to dementia," Tsiminis said. "Our sensor is an early first step toward a point-of-care solution for measuring and tracking B12 in healthy ageing adults. This would allow doctors to monitor B12 levels and intervene as soon as B12 deficiency was detected."

The new detection technique uses optical fiber and a laser to collect the signature of certain molecules. Light shines through a vial of diluted blood, which causes vitamin B12 molecules to vibrate. The optical fiber collects a signature from the molecule vibrations that make up the sample and delivers it to a spectrometer. This device then carefully analyses the signature and allows researchers to identify the molecule it corresponds to.

Tsiminis said the optical measurement only took about 30 seconds after blood preparation but normal vitamin B12 detection methods took almost two days. Vitamin B12 is a highly complicated vitamin, which is vital in the functioning and health of nerve tissue, brain function, and red blood cells. The National Institute of Health in the United States claims people older than 14 years-of-age should consume about 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B12 a day, pregnant women 2.6 mcg and lactating women 2.8 mcg.

"The next step has to do with showing that the sensitivity limit can be reduced but we need a wider scale study, across different blood types, to show that down the line this is something that can be applied to a wider population," Tsiminis said. "Time and cost limitations currently mean that regular and frequent B12 measurements are not being carried out. When you go to the doctor or the nurse, amongst the other results you get for blood, vitamin B12 could one day be included."

SOURCE: The Lead South Australia; http://www.theleadsouthaustralia.com.au/industries/health/bomb-detecting-technology-can-be-used-for-early-dementia-diagnosis/

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