Navigation path

Countries
Countries
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Belgium
  Benin
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Canada
  Chile
  China
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czech Republic
  Denmark
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Finland
  France
  Georgia
  Germany
  Ghana
  Greece
  Hungary
  Iceland
  India
  Ireland
  Israel
  Italy
  Japan
  Kazakhstan
  Kenya
  Korea
  Latvia
  Lithuania
  Luxembourg
  Malta
  Mexico
  Montenegro
  Morocco
  Namibia
  Netherlands
  Nigeria
  Norway
  Peru
  Poland
  Portugal
  Romania
  Russia
  Serbia
  Slovakia
  Slovenia
  South Africa
  Spain
  Swaziland
  Sweden
  Switzerland
  Taiwan
  Tanzania
  Tunisia
  Turkey
  Ukraine
  United Kingdom
  United States

Themes
Agriculture & food
Energy
Environment
ERA-NET
Health & life sciences
Human resources & mobility
Industrial research
Information society
Innovation
International cooperation
Nanotechnology
Pure sciences
Research infrastructures
Research policy
Science & business
Science in society
Security
SMEs
Social sciences and humanities
Space
Special Collections
Transport


   Success Stories

Last Update: 14-03-2014  
Related category(ies):
Innovation  |  Health & life sciences  |  Nanotechnology

 

Countries involved in the project described in the article:
Belgium  |  Denmark  |  Finland  |  Greece  |  Hungary  |  Italy  |  Netherlands  |  Portugal  |  Slovakia  |  Spain  |  Sweden  |  United Kingdom
Add to PDF "basket"

Tiny technology to tackle Alzheimer's

Today, some 24 million people worldwide are affected by dementia with more than 4 million new cases recorded every year. This equates to a new case every eight seconds. To address these staggering figures, EU-funded researchers have engineered tiny particles to trace and treat Alzheimer's - the most prevalent neurodegenerative disease.

Illustration of the brain
© markus dehlzeit fotolia

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia or mental deterioration typically occurring in old age. In Europe alone, some five million people are reported to have dementia. One in 20 people over 65 years, and one in five over 85 are classified as Alzheimer’s sufferers.

Given Europe’s ageing population, these numbers are expected to rise dramatically. Unless radical new treatments reverse the trend, cases are expected to double in Western Europe and triple in Eastern Europe over the next 30 years.

Despite advances which have made interpretation of the molecular basis of the disease possible, there has been little progress in diagnosis and therapy. The EU-funded NAD project has been working to change that by developing nanoparticles which can be adapted to the specifics of what is known about the causes of this debilitating brain disorder.

Drugs need to be designed to pass biological barriers, such as the gastro-intestinal barrier (the stomach and intestines) if taken orally, or the blood-brain barrier in the case of brain disease.

However, getting the larger molecules of drug treatments to cross the biological barriers within the human body is a major challenge. The NAD project has managed to do this by using nanoparticles to reach the area most affected by Alzheimer’s.

Attached to these nanoparticles are molecules that can then recognise the insoluble fibrous protein deposits known as amyloids that are characteristic of the disease. The nanoparticles also work to remove the amyloid deposits.

Hitting the disease where it hurts.
In an Alzheimer’s sufferer, amyloids play a central role in the neurodegeneration of the brain – they are released in a soluble form but progressively become insoluble, forming hard deposits.

Knowing that amyloids in the brain and blood are linked to Alzheimer’s has helped the NAD team to specifically engineer multi-functional nanoparticles to target affected areas where amyloids are forming and to deliver tailored treatments. The results are expected to have an enormous impact on the early diagnosis and therapy of the disease.

“The removal of amyloids from the brain should slow down, or even stop, the neurogeneration process,” says Prof. Massimo Masserini of the University of Milano-Bicocca and coordinator of the NAD project. “Early therapeutics when the disease is in the initial stage would increase the life expectancy – and quality – of Alzheimer patients.”

The research team has developed several artificial and cellular models to improve the efficiency of the nanoparticles to seek out the amyloid deposits.

Tests have been carried out on genetically modified mice with Alzheimer’s disease. The NAD consortium was able to show the nanoparticles they developed were able to lower the amyloid content in the rodents’ brains.

The end-goal of the project is then to use the nanoparticles to detect and remove amyloid brain deposits in humans, once testing procedures are complete and regulatory approval is achieved.

Future applications should lead to more effective approaches to treating Alzheimer’s and improve the quality of life for the elderly, while helping to reduce the burden on Europe’s healthcare systems.

The project’s results, which include several filed patents, are also expected to lead to further basic and applied research in this complex medical area.

“The use of new diagnostic and therapeutic methods based on nanotechnology is one of the potential future answers to the immense societal and economic problems linked to Alzheimer’s disease,” notes the NAD team.

The researchers are keen to communicate their findings as widely as possible to educate the public and stimulate dialogue on this important subject with other scientists. The NAD team has already published more than 50 articles in major biotechnology and nanotechnology journals.

 

Project details

  • Project acronym: NAD
  • Participants: Italy (Coordinator), UK, Hungary, France, Slovakia, Spain, Finland, Sweden, Portugal, Netherlands, Denmark, Greece, Belgium
  • Project FP7 212043
  • Total costs: € 14 365 090
  • EU contribution: € 10 921 350
  • Duration: September 2008 - August 2013

Convert article(s) to PDF

No article selected


loading


Search articles

Notes:
To restrict search results to articles in the Information Centre, i.e. this site, use this search box rather than the one at the top of the page.

After searching, you can expand the results to include the whole Research and Innovation web site, or another section of it, or all Europa, afterwards without searching again.

Please note that new content may take a few days to be indexed by the search engine and therefore to appear in the results.

Print Version
Share this article
See also

Project web site
Project information on CORDIS





  Top   Research Information Center