Droplet - diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease by analysing a single drop of blood

One drop of blood can be enough to fight back Alzheimer’s disease. Together with scientists we are working on a medical instrument that allows to detect AD at its’ early stage by measuring the seismic mass of a such a small sample of blood. This newly invented diagnostic method is inexpensive and non-invasive. Therefore it creates the possibility of running tests on a wide part of the population and offering proper treatment on time.


Scale of the problem

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one of the major causes of dementia. The scale of the problem is enormous. In 2010 the total number of people with dementia was estimated at 35.6 million and this number was expected to rise to 115.4 million in 2050. WHO estimated the worldwide costs of treating and caring for those patients at more than US$ 604 billion per year.1 It is also a significant issue in Poland. It is expected that in 2020 in our country over 1.1 million people will be involved in caring for patients affected by this disease.

Alzheimer’s can, in fact, be effectively treated, but only if it’s diagnosed not later than in the third stage (there are six in total). However, the diagnostic methods that are available now, such as CAT scan or MRI, are expensive and cannot be used to run screening tests.

Droplet - a solution for early diagnosis

The project we’re conducting in cooperation with scientists from Lublin University of Technology and Medical University of Lublin, can solve this problem. - Our goal is to create an instrument, that will allow for detecting early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease by using one drop of blood. This diagnostic method is non-invasive and can be conducted on a large scale: in laboratories, hospitals and many other health care facilities - explains Ph.D. Eng Wojciech Surtel from Lublin University of Technology, one of the researchers involved in this project.

The invention is called ‘Droplet’ - because this is literally how much blood is needed to run a test. A fully-functional, working prototype of this device has already been built in the laboratories of Lublin University of Technology.

Ph.D. Eng Wojciech Surtel presents Droplet
Ph.D. Eng Wojciech Surtel presents Droplet

The concept of this diagnostic method was developed by Ph.D.,D.Sc. Eng Boguslaw Kuszta (professionally associated i.a. with the California Institute of Technology), who has been working together with MD., Ph.D., D.Sc. Ryszard Maciejewski (from Medical University of Lublin).

EMBIQ’s task is to assure financing of further research, find an investor and deliver software. This is being done by Teleinfomed Sp. z o. o. [Ltd.] - a subsidiary of EMBIQ. Soon a special-purpose entity will be established to further develop the project.

- This is not the first medicine-related project, that we’re participating in - says Alexey Shabalovskiy, the CTO at EMBIQ company. - Cooperation with academic community is important to us and we specialise, among other, in telemedicine and constructing electronic devices. We’re convinced that such projects have a large potential, because they meet actual social needs.


Droplet’s advantages

What exactly makes Droplet a better solution than other, already available, diagnostic techniques? First of all, to run a test it requires only one drop of blood. There is no need to take additional samples from a patient and the AD diagnosis can be done alongside routine blood tests (for example a CBC). Thus, the test doesn’t cause any discomfort. It’s also important that on the contrary to already mentioned methods (CAT scan or MRI), running tests with the use of Droplet doesn’t require a highly-qualified team, so the costs of a diagnosis are lower. The device itself is also inexpensive. The price of a ready-made product is estimated at around 100.000 PLN (approx. 25.000 EUR).

Droplet: the working prototype of the invention

The working prototype of the invention

In this case, economical issues play a significant role. Due to the fact, that Alzheimer’s disease can occur in every elderly person, all people aged above 30 are potential candidates for AD tests. With the diagnostic methods that are in use now, such widely-spread tests exceed every nation’s financial capacities.

- Thanks to Droplet, detecting Alzheimer’s at its early stage will be inexpensive and accessible. One device will be able to run even 80 tests a day. Detecting AD on time and offering effective treatment to as many patients as possible will significantly reduce the social and economical costs related to providing care for people with AD - explains Tomasz Niedzialek, the CEO of EMBIQ company.

What’s the future of Droplet? EMBIQ will soon be applying for subsidies for the development of the project. In one year’s time the invention should be ready for clinical tests.


About the scientists on the team:

Ph.D., D.Sc. Eng Bogdan Kuszta taught electronics at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of Warsaw University of Technology (1969-1974). Since 1979 he has been associated with the California Institute of Technology. In 1992 he started working as an consultant in neuromorphic engineering at the Silicon Valley. He retired in 2002 but remained professionally active and in 2005 he was nominated as Director of the Center of Clinical Neuroengineering in Lublin, Poland. The Center specialises in designing medical equipment used for early detection of Alzheimer disease.

MD., Ph.D., D.Sc. Ryszard Maciejewski - Dean of I Faculty of Medicine with Dentistry Division at Medical University of Lublin, also Head of Human Anatomy Institute with Biostructure and Virtual Man Laboratories at this university. He has a vast research and scientific experience also in the field of project managment. Moreover, he’s a co-author (together with Ph.D., D.Sc. Eng Bogdan Kuszta) of a patent on a method of determining the liquid substances’ coagulation.

Ph.D. Eng Wojciech Surtel graduated from Lublin University of Technology in 1989 with a degree in Electrical Engineering and since then his career was related to this institution. He conducts academic classes and research and development projects, concerning i.a. construction of telemedical systems for diagnostics, systems for intelligent life functions sensors and the use of mobile solutions in telemedicine. He’s a co-author of over 80 scientific publications and a few patent applications.



Droplet in Polish media:

TVP1 “Wiadomości”: https://vod.tvp.pl/30220593/22052017-1500
TVP1 “Teleexpress”: https://teleexpress.tvp.pl/30194208/21052017-1700
TVP3 “Panorama Lubelska”: http://www.lublin.tvp.pl/30852223/jedna-kropla-krwi-wystarczy-by-wykryc-alzheimera
(full version of the news service: http://lublin.tvp.pl/30856076/19-maja-2017-g2130)
Radio Lublin: http://radio.lublin.pl/news/592839d583ba885d373c9869 
Radio Eska: https://lublin.eska.pl/newsy/szykuje-sie-przelom-w-walce-z-alzheimerem-w-lublinie-powstaje-urzadzenie-do-badan-audio/452752
Press & news portals:
“Kurier Lubelski”: http://plus.kurierlubelski.pl/wiadomosci/a/wynalazkiem-w-alzheimera,12099226
Naukaonline.pl: http://www.naukaonline.pl/news/item/3868-kropla-krwi-wyzna-alzheimera

 1 Duthey, Béatrice. http://www.who.int/medicines/areas/priority_medicines/BP6_11Alzheimer.pdf