February 14, 2009

Special light may detect Parkinson’s

A light as bright as a million-watt bulb may be able to help identify early signs of Parkinson's disease, British researchers say.

A Keele University team says the special light of a super-microscope could help spot changes in brain cells before Parkinson's destroyed them, BBC reported Saturday.

Researcher Joanna Collingwood told the American Association for the Advancement of Science the technique could mean early treatment for Parkinson's patients.

The researchers used a synchrotron, or Diamond Light Source, which fires particles at just below the speed of light, focusing them into a beam less than a single cell in diameter.

BBC said the microscope allows researchers to observe iron levels in individual brain cells.

We have been able to investigate human tissue with such precision that metal ions, particularly iron levels, in and around individual cells can be mapped, Collingwood was quoted as saying. The technique is pioneering in that it does not change the distribution or form of the metals in the tissue being studied.

She added that the team's work could help doctors detect early signs of Parkinson's.

Early diagnosis is key because we know that by the time a typical individual presents with the symptoms of the disease, chemical changes have already caused significant cell death of vulnerable motor neurons, she said.