Australian Synchrotron X-ray and infrared imaging techniques have been used in a powerful combined approach to characterise the composition of amyloid plaques that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is major international health problem that accounts for 50-75 per cent of all cases of dementia in Australia. More than 400,000 Australians are living with dementia and it is the second leading cause of death.
Amyloid plaques are complex protein fragments which accumulate between nerve cells in the brain and may destroy connections between them, and are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
“However, it is still not known if the plaques cause Alzheimer’s or whether the Alzheimer’s causes their formation, which is why we need to improve our understanding of protein structures within plaques, and the molecular and elemental composition of tissue surrounding the plaques“ said Dr Mark Hackett of Curtin University, who led the research.
The study was published earlier in the year in Biochemistry.
As very few methods provide sufficient chemical information to study the composition and distribution of the plaques in excised tissue, the investigators decided to combine Synchrotron spectroscopic techniques with additional imaging methods, Raman spectroscopy and fluorescence microscopy.
Image Caption: Histology, FTIR, XFM, and tissue autofluorescence imaging of Aβ-plaques