Research Projects

Detecting proteins in the blood to diagnose and manage dementia

Awarded to:
Dr Bing Li

Current award:

University College London

28 February 2022 - 27 February 2023

Full project name:

Detection of Neurofilament Light Using Advanced Graphene Biosensing Technology






Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of dementia often have a biological signature that can be detected in a person’s blood. This gives researchers and medical professionals an indication as to whether a person has the disease.

Neurofilament light (NfL) forms part of the biological signature for several diseases that cause dementia, including Alzheimer’s. Changing NfL levels in the blood accurately reflects damage to nerve cells, even before the symptoms appear. By measuring NfL levels in someone’s blood, GPs could make an earlier diagnosis of brain diseases and monitor disease progression.

Current technologies for measuring blood NfL are expensive, time-consuming laboratory techniques. They also need highly skilled personnel. This means that these technologies cannot currently be used for NfL detection in GP surgeries or people’s homes.

Dr Bing Li at University College London aims to develop a portable sensor to accurately measure NfL levels in the blood. This new sensor will provide sensitive, accurate, rapid and cheap NfL detection, so it can be used in GP surgeries, care homes, and other non-specialist environments.

This technology has the potential to radically change the way that dementia is managed. There is no cure or disease-reversing treatments for dementia and diseases like Alzheimer’s can start long before symptoms appear. Developing practical diagnostics is essential for detecting diseases early and monitoring disease progress. This will help people living with dementia better manage their condition and perhaps lead a better quality of life.

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Dementia is one of the world’s greatest challenges. It steals lives and leaves millions heartbroken. But we can change the future.