A new method has been developed by researchers at Bedford, Massachusetts that can detect signs of Alzheimer's disease. This technique uses near-infrared light to examine brain tissue.
The optical technique has been developed by Eugene Hanlon, a scientist at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Research, and his collaborators at Harvard Medical School/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre and Boston.
The technique detects alterations to the optical properties of the brain that occur as the tissue undergoes changes due to the disease.
"We're primarily interested in finding a way of diagnosing and monitoring Alzheimer's disease during life," said Hanlon.
"We think this technique has a lot of potential for detecting the disease early on," he added.
The scientists have been looking at the prospect of analysing the brain with near-infrared light that can safely enter the skull and pass harmlessly through the brain.
The way infrared light scatters inside the head, can tell researchers about the condition of the brain.
Amyloid plaques, one of the vital signs of Alzheimer's disease, scatter light differently from normal brain tissue.
The researchers showed that as the microscopic plaques accumulate, the optical properties of the brain change.
They found that this change is detectable and that their technique could quantify differences and correctly recognize the signs of Alzheimer's.
Currently, medics rely on reviewing medical histories, administering physical exams, and taking into account the results of a battery of neuropsychological assessments that measure cognitive performance. There is no cure for the disease yet.
The study appears in March 15 issue of the journal Optics Letters, published by the Optical Society of America.