An electrochemical sensor detects Parkinson’s disease at different stages. The device was fabricated using an ordinary 3D printer and proved capable of early diagnosis, also serving as a model for the identification of other diseases. The sensor rapidly indicates the level of the protein PARK7/DJ-1 in human blood and synthetic cerebrospinal fluid. The molecule is associated with Parkinson’s at levels below 40 μg/L.

To build the sensor, the researchers used a commercial filament made basically of polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable polymer associated with a conductive material (graphene), and other additives. Three electrodes printed on the plastic substrate by additive manufacturing were chemically treated to make them more conductive and stimulate formation of a surface layer of functional groups (carboxyls) that bind to antibodies.

The activation process entailed removal of the polymeric insulating surface from the electrodes by immersion in sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and application of an electric potential (positive and negative). A reaction was then promoted between antibodies and PARK7/DJ-1 to produce a diagnosis. Specific antibodies for PARK7/DJ-1 were immobilized on the surface of the electrodes, and the sensor was used to detect the protein at three levels: 30 μg/L, 40 μg/L, and 100 μg/L. The average level in patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s at different stages is approximately 30 ± 9 μg/L. (Image credit: Cristiane Kalinke and Paulo de Oliveira)

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