They are using the Diamond Light Source synchrotron at Harwell to map the distribution of iron ions in the brains of people suffering from the incurable condition.
Dr Joanna Collingwood said the technique might improve therapy by allowing treatment to take place before the cell death of significant numbers of motor neurones.
She has told scientists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Chicago that the disease alters the distribution of ions in the brain.
She explained how the synchrotron facilitates microfocus spectroscopy, a technique that ‘investigates human tissue with such precision that metal ions, particularly iron levels, in and around individual cells can be mapped.
‘What makes the microfocus synchrotron approach so unique is that we can also use the focused beam to obtain information about the form in which the iron is stored.’
The synchrotron is billed as a state-of-the-art light source that enables researchers is the UK and abroad ‘have access to cutting-edge analytical techniques and services for the next twenty years or more’.
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