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Lasers could screen for Alzheimer's

A new technique has been developed which would allow doctors to identify brain tissue abnormalities associated with Alzheimer's disease by using a laser beam, it has been reported.

At the moment the only way of finding the tangled proteins in brain tissue which indicate the disease is by dissecting the brain after death. The laser technology would for the first time allow confirmation of Alzheimer's in a living person, as diagnosis currently rests on inferring from other symptoms.

The new technique has been developed by researchers at the VA Medical Centre in Massachusetts, US, who have recently started trialling the laser test on humans, according to the New Scientist.

Lasers, which are strapped to a patient's head, flash low-energy, near-infrared light onto the skull. The resulting reflections can differentiate between healthy brain tissue and that which displays the microscopic protein plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer's.

Lead researcher Eugene Hanlon said: "It could potentially provide an immediate answer and so would be valuable not only as a diagnostic, but also as a screening tool."

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New Scientist