On this World Alzheimer’s Day (21st September 2023), we would like to reflect on the advancements achieved in understanding Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the ground-breaking technologies that are helping to slow down the onset of this disease and giving us hope that disease prevention will soon be a reality.
Soft X-ray Tomography, with its unique ability to image the whole internal structure of intact cells, is one good example of a technology that provides Alzheimer researchers with an insight into the functioning of disease-infected brain neurons. But the true magic happens when Soft X-ray Tomography joins forces with complementary imaging techniques such as electron and/or light microscopies.
In recently-published research, a UK group, led by researchers from the University of Sussex, have used cryo-Soft X-ray Tomography (cryo-SXT) combined with cryo-structured illumination microscopy (cryo-SIM) to show the accumulation of amyloid-beta protein in the brain neurons. They were able to demonstrate how the function of lysosomes, the cells natural means of breaking down and recycling excess amyloid-beta material, was impacted by the introduction of toxic amyloid-beta oligomers.
This 3D imaging work provides unprecedented and critical visual information on the changes to neuronal architecture inflicted by amyloid beta oligomers. The researchers acknowledge that cryo-SXT’s ability to capture the whole-neuron volume allowed 3D features to be observed that were not visible in cryo-TEM images taken from imaging thin slices of the neuron.
Let us acknowledge the great progress that has been made in Alzheimer’s research using novel technologies such as Soft X-ray Tomography and its correlative microscopy techniques. With each discovery, we get closer to unravelling the secrets of this disease and, ultimately, a means for preventing its onset.
Through the development of the first commercial laboratory-scale soft X-ray microscope, the SXT-100, SiriusXT is democratizing cryo-SXT as a cell structural imaging technique, providing disease and drug researchers with ever-improving tools to understand and defeat the disease.