Bright sparks offer hope to Parkinson’s sufferers
plying low-level light to other parts of an animal’s body – particularly the abdomen – can be even more effective in protecting brain cells.
Low-level laser therapy, or photobiomodulation, has been used for 50 years – typically to treat pain or inflammation – but evidence is emerging of its potential benefits to the brain.
In 2010 the Sydney team showed that shining this nearinfrared light onto the heads of mice with Parkinson’s disease could protect against the loss of brain cells.
“Following that, we’ve done heaps of studies that have used different wavelengths of light, altering when we give the light – either before, during or after the injury – and we consistently show we can protect the brain,” said lead researcher Dr Daniel Johnstone.
“The problem you face moving into humans is that even at these longer wavelengths we use, you lose about two-thirds of your intensity for every millimetre of tissue you pass through. We have thick skulls.”
The team’s most recent study, of three monkeys with Parkinson’s, found that while shining light on the head gave no neuroprotection, shining it on the lower legs delayed the onset of symptoms, and shining it on the abdomen prevented symptoms from showing.
Dr Johnstone said while the findings – presented at the