Scientists have created an innovative “smart patch,” using microneedle technology, which can detect warning signs of Alzheimer’s in just six minutes, before the symptoms even occur.

The scientists behind this work have published their findings in the journal ACS Omega. They said the patch could be used to detect other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s.

The device created by scientists at Swansea University looks for inflammatory biomarkers of the neurologic disease, and can spot them with great accuracy.

What’s more, the microneedles can detect these markers without drawing blood, by using skin interstitial fluid (ISF). The tiny needles breach the outer skin barrier without causing much discomfort. As a result, people can be screened for Alzheimer’s in their homes using this device.

“The skin is the largest organ in the body – it contains more ISF than the total volume of blood. This fluid is an ultrafiltrate of blood and holds biomarkers that complement other biofluids such as sweat, saliva, and urine. It can be sampled in a minimally invasive manner and used either for point-of-care testing or real-time using microneedle devices,” Dr. Sanjiv Sharma of Swansea University said in a media release.

This is not Dr. Sharma’s first experience with microneedle technology or a smart patch. He had also developed the world’s first COVID-19 “smart patch,” which could reportedly administer the COVID-19 vaccine and monitor its efficacy in the body using the same microneedle technology, according to StudyFinds.

“We employed microneedle array-based biosensing patches as wearable transdermal sensors to detect the proinflammatory cytokine IL-6. IL-6 is present in the skin ISF with other cytokines and is implicated in many clinical states including neurodegenerative diseases and fatal pneumonia from SARSCoV 2,” Dr. Sharma said in the release.

“We have been able to detect IL-6 at concentrations as low as 1 pg/mL in synthetic skin ISF, indicating its utility for routine point of care, bloodless measurements in simpler settings, worldwide,” Dr. Sharma added.

The researchers claim their minimally invasive Alzheimer’s patch is scalable, has a short detection time, and can detect low levels of markers with high accuracy.

In related news, a team of researchers found a compound in beer hops that may offer protection against Alzheimer’s disease. They looked at the “chemical variability” of four common hop varieties: Cascade, Saaz, Tettnang, and Summit.

“Nutraceuticals” are foods or parts of food that have medical or health benefits. And hop, one of the main ingredients of beer, can interrupt the collection of amyloid beta proteins linked with AD. Further, previous studies showed that consuming bitter hop acids can improve “cognitive function, attention, and mood in older adults,” the researchers wrote.