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Researchers use light to detect Alzheimer's
Date:3/14/2008

eagues showed was that as the microscopic plaques accumulate, the optical properties of the brain change. The team found that this change is detectable and that their technique could quantify differences between in-vitro samples and correctly identify signs of Alzheimer's.

This technique will be a boon to medicine if it is able to detect microscopic changes that can be related to disease progression. While techniques like MRI are good at identifying the gross anatomical features associated with Alzheimer's, they cannot detect more microscopic changes.

Although Alzheimer's disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, claiming tens of thousands of American lives a year, there is no definitive way to diagnose itat least not while someone is alive. After someone with Alzheimer's dies, pathologists can perform an autopsy and examine slices of the brain under the microscope, looking for the same signs that Alois Alzheimer first recognized when he identified the disease more than a century ago. Finding accumulations of amyloid plaques in the brain substance and tangle-like proteins in nerve cells is the only way to confirm with certainty that someone had Alzheimer's while they were alive.

Since there is no way to safely examine the brains of living people this way, doctors currently diagnose Alzheimer's disease using other methods. They rely on reviewing medical histories, administering physical exams, and taking into account the results of a battery of neuropsychological assessments that measure cognitive performance. A positive diagnosis is made when all other possible causes have been eliminated, but even under the best of circumstances, these diagnoses can be incorrect 10 percent of the time or more.

Accurate, early detection of Alzheimer's could save many lives. While there is no cure for the disease, clinically proven treatments can slow its progressespecially if they are administered early on. Moreover, be
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Contact: Colleen Morrison
cmorri@osa.org
202-416-1437
Optical Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

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