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A novel non-invasive method to detect brain disorders

A new non-invasive method to detect oxidative stress in the brain may help in early detection of brain disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. The new technique, developed by the researchers from the Indian Institute of Science, is based on Raman spectroscopy.

The existing techniques to detect similar changes are highly invasive, where large amount of cells or tissues have to be withdrawn from the body. The new method is non-invasive, and can detect oxidative stress even before the symptoms of the disease are developed. Since it gives quick results, it can also used be for real time monitoring of the disease.

Oxidative stress kills neurons in the brain and result in neural conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. These conditions affect more than 50 million people worldwide, and the numbers are growing.

"Our brain is always exposed to free radicals; but, there are several antioxidant defence mechanisms that prevent our brain cells from oxidative injury and maintain equilibrium between free radicals and antioxidants", says Siva Umapathy, Professor in the Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry, Indian Institute of Science, who led the study.

However, when things go wrong, natural mechanisms can't cope with the extra free radicals that are produced, and this can oxidise important biomolecules like nucleic acid and protein.

The IISc scientists have found a novel, non-invasive way to detect such structural changes in the biomolecules using Raman spectroscopy. Raman spectroscopy is based on the principle of scattering of light from the molecules and, as Prof Umapathy says, “it is a wonderful tool to detect any structural change in the molecules caused by oxidative stress.”

Prof Umapathy and his team have also found that vitamin C can reduce oxidative stress. They deliberately added vitamin C along with the precursors causing oxidative stress, and noticed that vitamin C acted as an antioxidant.

About the authors

Sujit Kumar Sikdar is a Professor at the Molecular Biophysics Unit and Siva Umapathy a Professor at the Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry and Department of Instrumentation and Applied Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Abhaya Dutta, Rekha Gautam and Sreejata Chatterjee are research scholars at IISc. Collaborator Freek Ariese is at the VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Contact: Siva Umapathy at

About the paper

The paper was published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience. DOI: 10.1021/acschemneuro.5b00106