Real-time amyloid aggregation monitoring with a photonic crystal-based approach

Sara Santi, Valeria Musi, Emiliano Descrovi, Vincent Paeder, Joab Di Francesco, Lubos Hvozdara, Peter Van Der Wal, Hilal A. Lashuel, Annalisa Pastore, Reinhard Neier, Hans Peter Herzig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)


We propose the application of a new label-free optical technique based on photonic nanostructures to real-time monitor the amyloid-beta 1-42 (Aβ(1-42)) fibrillization, including the early stages of the aggregation process, which are related to the onset of the Alzheimer's Disease (AD). The aggregation of Aβ peptides into amyloid fibrils has commonly been associated with neuronal death, which culminates in the clinical features of the incurable degenerative AD. Recent studies revealed that cell toxicity is determined by the formation of soluble oligomeric forms of Aβ peptides in the early stages of aggregation. At this phase, classical amyloid detection techniques lack in sensitivity. Upon a chemical passivation of the sensing surface by means of polyethylene glycol, the proposed approach allows an accurate, real-time monitoring of the refractive index variation of the solution, wherein Aβ(1-42) peptides are aggregating. This measurement is directly related to the aggregation state of the peptide throughout oligomerization and subsequent fibrillization. Our findings open new perspectives in the understanding of the dynamics of amyloid formation, and validate this approach as a new and powerful method to screen aggregation at early stages. Catching the wave: A Bloch surface wave (BSW) is generated at the interface between a dielectric multilayer structure and a solution containing the Aβ(1-42) peptide. The BSW is sensitive to the variation of the refractive index (Δn) of the solution. This variation is related to conformational changes of the Aβ(1-42) peptide during aggregation, that is, the transition from an initial soluble form to a non-soluble fibrillar state (see figure).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3476-3482
Number of pages7
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 21 Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes



  • aggregation
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • amyloid beta-peptides
  • biosensing
  • photonic crystals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics

Cite this

Santi, S., Musi, V., Descrovi, E., Paeder, V., Di Francesco, J., Hvozdara, L., Van Der Wal, P., Lashuel, H. A., Pastore, A., Neier, R., & Herzig, H. P. (2013). Real-time amyloid aggregation monitoring with a photonic crystal-based approach. ChemPhysChem, 14(15), 3476-3482.