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Optical Scanning Method May Be Able to Detect Early Onset of Alzheimer's

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A team of researchers from Harvard Medical School and Boston University says it has found a way to detect the amyloid plaque in the brain that may be able to signal the progression of Alzheimers disease while the patient is still alive.

According to a news release from the Optical Society of America, the detection method, which uses near-infrared light detection to scan a person's brain to find the plaque, is being tested on living subjects. Finding the amyloid substances, believed to be the chief cause of memory loss and other symptoms of Alzheimer's dementia, had previously been accomplished only during autopsies.

"We're primarily interested in finding a way of diagnosing and monitoring Alzheimer's disease during life," U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Research Scientist Eugene Hanlon says in the news release. "We think this technique has a lot of potential for detecting the disease early on."

Hanlon and his colleagues from Harvard Medical School-Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston University used the near-infrared scanning technology to demonstrate that as the microscopic plaques accumulate, the optical properties of the brain change. The current research on living subjects will determine the technology's effectiveness as a an early-detection tool, the news release said.

The study is published in the current issue of the journal Optics Letters.

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