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article imageVitamin B12 sensor may assist with Alzheimer’s detection

By Tim Sandle     Oct 26, 2016 in Health
A sensor has been devised to detect for vitamin B12 deficiency. A lack of this vitamin has been linked with a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
The new optical sensor has been devised by University of Adelaide scientists. The test requires a sample of a patient’s blood, which is then diluted. The device is said to be the world’s first portable vitamin B12 deficiency test.
Vitamin B12 (or cobalamin) is a water-soluble structurally-complex vitamin that plays a part in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. The vitamin is also involved with the development of red blood cells.
Sources of B12 are animal products (meat, fish, and dairy products) and supplements. Vitamin B12 deficiency can potentially cause severe damage, especially to the brain and nervous system. Deficiency has also been associated with fatigue, depression, and poor memory.
There is also a potential connection between B12 deficiency and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. There is, however, a clear distinction to make. While some studies indicate low vitamin B12 levels are associated with an increased risk of dementia; taking supplementation with B vitamins does not appear to improve brain function or symptoms of memory loss. In other words, B12 may play a part in preventing the development of Alzheimer’s but it cannot reverse it.
The new sensor has been developed by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics together with the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing and the Schools of Physical Sciences and Medicine.
Describing the device to Drug Store News, Dr. Georgios Tsimini, who helped to develop the machine, said: “this is the first time a rapid technique based on optical spectroscopy has been shown to be able to detect vitamin B12 in human blood serum.”
The device measures vitamin B12 levels in less than one minute and it is based on the optical process called Raman spectroscopy. This process produces an optical fingerprint of a target molecule.
Information about the sensor has been presented to the SPIE BioPhotonics Australasia conference, during October 2016. Biophotonics describes the application of optical technologies to analyse and measure biological material.
More about Alzheimer's disease, vitamin B12, Vitamins, Neurodegenrative disease
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