Researchers have developed a new method called SAXS-CT for making detailed X-ray images of brain cells.
The newer and more advanced technology can map the myelin sheaths of nerve cells, which are important for conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers say that "we have combined two well-known medical examination methods: SAXS (Small-Angle X-ray Scattering) and CT-scanning (computed tomography scanning).
Combined with a specially developed programme for data processing, we have been able to examine the variations of the myelin sheaths in a rat brain all the way down to the molecular level without surgery", explains Torben Haugaard Jensen, Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.
The method is called 'Molecular X-ray CT', because you use X-ray CT to study myelin at the molecular level.
"We can see the myelin sheaths of the neuronal axons and we can distinguish the layers which have a thickness of 17.6 nanometers", said Torben Haugaard Jensen.
"Up until now, you had to cut out a little sample in order to examine the layers in one area and get a single measuring point. With the new method we can examine 250,000 points at once without cutting into the sample," he added.
"We can get a complete overview over the concentration and thickness of the myelin and this gives of the ability to determine whether the destruction of the myelin is occurring in spots or across the entire sample", Jensen explains.
The study has been published in the scientific journal, NeuroImage.