Alzheimer’s disease seems to develop over many years, if not decades, before symptoms begin to show up. In order to better understand its development, researchers have been looking for new ways to track the formation of amyloid plaques within the brain, which are the best known biomarkers of Alzheimer’s.
Researchers at Purdue University recently developed a so-called super-resolution “nanoscope” that can show molecular-level details of the composition of tissues and recently they optimized the technology to look deep into the brain. Using the new method, researchers at Indiana University were able to obtain three-dimensional images of molecules within the brain at a resolution that was previously an impossibility.
“While strictly a research tool for the foreseeable future, this technology has allowed us to see how the plaques are assembled and remodeled during the disease process,” said Gary Landreth, an Indiana University professor that worked on the study appearing in Nature Methods. “It gives insight into the biological causes of the disease, so that we can see if we can stop the formation of these damaging structures in the brain.”
The nanoscope relies on adaptive optics that contain mirrors that constantly change shape to compensate for light distortion introduced by brain tissue. By finely tuning how the mirrors deform themselves at lighting speed, the researchers were able to see the cells and their components down to individual molecules, in mice that have high levels of amiloid plaques
Here’s a Purdue University video profiling the technology: