Pathologists are offered the opportunity to view in microscopic detail the original research material upon which the discovery of Alzheimer's disease was based, on a website hosted by Carl Zeiss
In 1906, Alois Alzheimer prepared over 250 slides of human brain tissue from a female patient he had observed closely and published his findings in 1907.
That same year he began to treat a male patient and prepared more than 150 slides upon his death in 1910.
Both lots of material were re-discovered in basements of the University of Munich after a search organised by Professor Manuel Graeber of Imperial College London.
Well preserved and of very high technical quality, all the more than 400 specimens are being scanned and saved as virtual slides using a Zeiss Mirax system.
The virtual slides are being released progressively to be viewed over the internet.
Apart from their unique scientific value, the importance of the re-discovery of the slides is that they put an end to lingering doubts about whether Alzheimer's first patient, a 51-year old woman, suffered from a rare metabolic disorder called metachromatic leukodystrophy rather than the disease named after him.
However, Graeber says the rediscovered slides show no evidence of this but the cortex does exhibit the two classic pathological signs of Alzheimer's - amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.
Now, thanks to the Zeiss Mirax digital slide system and the world wide web, pathologists will be able to judge for themselves.
The Mirax digital slide system will process automatically up to 300 slides at a time with unprecedented image detail and colour reproduction, enabling laboratories to cope with increasing workloads while maintaining the accuracy, precision and quality of results.
Mirax produces a 'virtual slide' for each specimen in just two minutes, providing the same field of view as normal microscope eyepieces without the ergonomic penalty from long periods of use.
Mirax View software displays the virtual slides either individually or in groups, enabling rapid synchronised scanning, screening and evaluation of multiple specimens or serial sections.
Entire slides can be displayed at low magnification for easy navigation while areas examined at high magnification may be identified with coloured overlays.
The digital format allows easy teleconsultation via the sharing and manipulation of images across the Internet while data can be integrated into existing information systems.