X-ray eyes help early diagnosis of Parkinson’s

February 23rd, 2009 - 11:43 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 23 (IANS) Four million people worldwide are suffering from Parkinson’s disease, a complex condition that varies greatly among individuals.
Understanding the brain chemistry that leads to the onset of Parkinson’s is vital if we are to develop methods for early MRI diagnosis and new treatments for this devastating disease.

Joanna Collingwood from Keele University will present new results from studies carried out in collaboration with Mark Davidson from the University of Florida (UF), at Diamond - Britain’s national synchrotron.

Their results show that the distribution of metal ions in the brain tissue of sufferers is altered by the disease process.

By studying the tissue as a whole, it has been possible to map metal distribution throughout the brain region containing the vulnerable motor neurons in Parkinson’s disease in a region where they had earlier shown that iron levels nearly double in individual cells.

The primary support for this research is provided by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in Britain.

Collingwood commented “our studies at Diamond involve a technique called microfocus spectroscopy, in which powerful, tightly focussed beams of X-rays penetrate our tissue samples.

“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. What makes the microfocus synchrotron approach so unique is that we can also use the focussed beam to obtain information about the form in which the iron is stored,” he said, according to a Keele release.

Thanks to several years of work on optimising the tissue preparation method at the Materials Research Collaborative Access Team at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) led by Davidson and Jon Dobson, of Keele and Chris Batich of UF, the technique is pioneering in that it does not change the distribution or form of the metals in the tissue being studied.

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