Breakthrough for Alzheimer’s Patients Comes in the Form of Flickering Lights

Alzheimer’s patients may soon benefit from a new form of treatment that is quite different from those options that are currently available. New research has been carried out on mice that suffered from Alzheimer’s dementia to see what the effects were upon exposure to lights that flickered on and off at a particular frequency. The speculation being that being exposed to a particular frequency could potentially correct the damaged signaling in the brain and ward off the disease altogether.

Although it’s still early days for this new form of treatment, the FDA has already been approached by new start-up company Cognito Therapeutics about going ahead with clinical trials for testing. The research will give scientists a valuable insight into understanding Alzheimer’s and hopefully get us one step closer to finding a cure for the disease. There are currently more than 5 million people in the U.S. alone that are suffering from some form of Alzheimer’s, so to finally find an effective form of treatment would be fantastic.

The research that was carried out on the mice showed a dramatic reduction of amyloid protein in the visual cortices of the animals after just one hour of being under the light. It also showed that their immune cells were increasing noticeably in both size and activity, suggesting that these cells were cleaning up the high levels of amyloid proteins. On average they had around 67% less amyloid plaques than those receiving no treatment and those that were present were much smaller in size.

This is a great result for the researchers and comes as magnificent news following the disappointing failure of the recent solanezumab trial. But, the experts are adamant that the earlier these types of therapies are started, the better their chance of working. Li-Huei Tsai is a senior author of the paper and feels the team has something fundamentally different to any previous anti-amyloid Alzheimer’s disease treatments produced. In regards to the flickering light therapy, there are no chemicals or small molecules that have to be pumped into your body. Tsai said, “We just directly recruit other neurons and other cell types in the brain to enable the brain’s inner ability to repair itself.”

As part of the study the team first used a form of optogenetics to establish that if gamma oscillations are increased, they will energize microglial cells in areas such as the hippocampus. But, this method proved to be a little too costly, so less invasive ways were then explored. Tsai and her team also looked at the potential benefits that the light therapy could have for Parkinson’s and schizophrenia sufferers also. So, watch this space as we’re sure to be hearing more about the advancement of this light therapy soon.

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