On the current project with Dr. De Luca, he has preliminary data on Rhesus monkeys at the Alzheimer's Research Center at MCG, using a phosphate-based glaucoma drug rather than dangerous chemical warfare agents.
The tests show the EMG was able to detect superficial muscle twitches in human-like primates before secondary, cold-like symptoms set in. "So, at least in that particular experiment, it seems the answer is yes,' peripheral muscles seem to be more sensitive."
This does not surprise him because the highest release rate, turnover rate and breakdown rate for acetylcholine is in the neuromuscular system. As soon as the monkeys show the cold-like signs of increased salivation and eye secretion, they are given an antidote to avoid pain or distress.
The primate studies will be expanded over the next six months to include giving memory tests to the monkeys who initially should actually have improved cognition because of the decreased breakdown of acetylcholine to obtain the EMG signal under confounding conditions. However, with longer-term exposure, the cognition benefit likely will go away because of the irreversible nature of these agents.
Boston researchers will use the collected data to develop sophisticated algorithms that will be placed in a prototype that eventually could be clinically tested. Included in the detection device is a tracking system so that soldiers or others using the device could be rapidly found and treated.
The researchers are still discussing the most effective style and position for the device, everything from a wristband to a shoulder patch to a device that's periodically squeezed.