Neurology Central

Novel optical sensor developed for vitamin B12 deficiency test

Researchers from the University of Adelaide (Adelaide, Australia) have developed a low-cost, portable vitamin B12 test that has demonstrated the capacity to detect vitamin B12 in diluted human blood, and which could be utilized to monitor high risk individuals for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, enabling early intervention.
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The study, a collaborative effort comprising teams from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics, the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing and the Schools of Physical Sciences and Medicine at the University of Adelaide, was recently presented at the inaugural SPIE BioPhotonics Australasia conference (Adelaide, Australia, 16–19 October 2016).

Previous research has identified vitamin B12 (cobalamin and its derivatives) deficiency as a potential modifiable risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and chronic deficiency of the vitamin has been significantly associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline. Additionally, older adults are particularly at risk of B12 deficiency due to age-related reduction in absorbance of vitamin B12 received through the diet.

An effective and efficient method for measuring vitamin B12 concentration in the blood would enable ongoing tracking and assessment of this biomarker. In this study, the team developed an optical sensor based on resonance Raman spectroscopy for rapid measurements of vitamin B12 in human blood serum. The measurement takes less than a minute and requires minimum preparation of the collected blood samples, enabling researchers to produce a unique optical fingerprint of a target molecule in a short space of time.

Lead author Georgios Tsiminis (University of Adelaide) commented: “Our sensor is an early first step towards 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.”

At present, the sensor is still at concept stage but has demonstrated the capability to rapidly detect vitamin B12 in human blood serum, which is the first demonstration of this feat that did not require a full laboratory test.

“Our method provides a realistic basis for a system that is portable, cost-effective, and affords rapid results, along the lines of the pin-prick test for diabetes,” elaborated Tsiminis. “Time and cost limitations currently mean that regular and frequent B12 measurements are not being carried out. Having such a device could make this testing routine, potentially having a real impact on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Sources:; Tsiminis G, Schartner EP, Brooks JL, Hutchinson MR. Measurements of vitamin B12 in human blood serum using Raman spectroscopy. Presented at: SPIE BioPhotonics Australasia; Adelaide, Australia, 16–19 October 2016.

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