A new ‘super microscope’ with a light ‘as bright as a million-watt bulb’ could detect Parkinson’s Disease and other afflictions earlier than they can be diagnosed now, spotting telltale changes in brain cells before the diseases involved can destroy them.

“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 neurones,” Dr. Joanna Collingwood recently told an American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Chicago, IL.

A team at Keele University in the UK, led by Collingwood, has demonstrated the viability of a new process using a finely-focused beam from a partical accelerator to examine individual brain cells. The test can detect the presence of iron and other metal elements which presage certain degerative brina diseasses.

The problem is, the technique is highly impractical at the moment. First, you have to have a partical accelerator. But Collingwood says the technique could ultimately be refined for use with existing MRI machines.

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