A group of researchers have claimed to be able to locate and identify the iron oxide particles in the brain that are linked to Alzheimer's and other related diseases.
The team from the universities of Florida and Keele used a particle accelerator to study brain tissue to trace iron oxide in the brain.
"We're the first to be able to tell you both the location of the particles and what kind of particles they are," said Mark Davidson, an engineer on the team at the University of Florida.
It is hoped that by finding the particles it will shed light on whether iron is a symptom or a cause of the diseases.
"The basic idea is, if you understand the mechanism, you can understand ways to try to treat the disease," added Mr Davidson.
In addition to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's disease research are also expected to benefit from studies into the role of the iron particles.
For all these diseases, it is known that affected brain areas contain high levels of iron oxide and related particles.
However, it is not yet understood how these differ from the 'good' iron that is also found in the brain.
Mr Davidson said that he hopes that the research will lead to a method of early diagnosis for the diseases, saying that most treatments rely upon early detection.