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MassBay scientists help discover Alzheimer's indicator

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MassBay professor Sudad Saman was co-lead on experiments that made recent breakthroughs in Alzheimer's disease research.

Photo: MassBay

​Scientists from Massachusetts Bay Community College, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and Boston University have made a significant discovery related to early detection of Alzheimer's disease.

The results from the tests, which were performed in MassBay's state-of-the-art biotechnology and environmental science labs, were recently published in the prestigious Journal of Biological Chemistry.

The scientists discovered that exosomes—a cell marker or vesicle released from cells—containing tau and other proteins is an indicator of Alzheimer's disease, a progressive and irreversible neurological disorder for which there is no known cure. Exosomes can be found in the cerebral spinal column and can be examined through a spinal tap. High levels of tau found in the exosomes are an indicator of advanced stages of the disease.

“The result of our work may become revolutionary in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease in its early onset,” said Sudad Saman, an adjunct professor of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) at MassBay, who wrote the article. “We believe our discovery is quite significant.”

An earlier diagnosis

Often, Alzheimer's disease is detected in patients in its later stages, when the disease has become more apparent, Saman said. Detecting the tau protein secretion could help identify the disease sooner.

“By discovering Alzheimer's in patients earlier, they can start taking medications, even five years earlier can be beneficial to extending the life of the individual, as well as delaying the degenerating effects of the disease."

The discovery was made by a college-and-university team led by Saman and UMass-Lowell's Garth Hall, professor of biological science. (Bruce Jackson, a renowned biotechnology professor, was among the MassBay scientists who participated.)

Mass. college sets pace on winning Goldwater scholarships

The finding is the latest breakthrough stemming from MassBay's biotechnology and environmental science programs. MassBay has produced 17 Barry M. Goldwater Scholars, the most prestigious undergraduate STEM honor. In 2010, MassBay announced the discovery of new bacteria made possible by Saman, who coordinates MassBay’s environmental science program, in conjunction with the work of a student using the college’s high-tech equipment and laboratory.

“The fact that we continue to be recognized nationally for our work here at a community college, without a cadre of graduate research students, makes it all the more meaningful,” Saman said.

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