Shining a light on Parkinson’s
THE power of light is emerging as a promising way to slow brain conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.
Clinical trials are under way across Australia testing whether applying “laser helmets” to the head of patients can improve symptoms and halt disease progression. But a new University of Sydney study has found applying low-level light to other parts of the body — particularly the abdomen — could be even more effective.
Low-level laser therapy — or photobiomodulation — has been used for the past 50 years, typically to treat pain or inflammation. But evidence is mounting for its potential benefit for the brain.
The Sydney University team first showed in 2010 that shining this near-infra-red light on to the heads of mice with Parkinson’s disease could protect against the loss of brain cells. But our “thick skulls” made the light less effective in humans, lead researcher Daniel Johnstone said.
In trying to find an alternative delivery, the team found delivering light to the lower legs of monkeys with Parkinson’s delayed the onset of symptoms, while shining the light on their abdomen prevented them from showing symptoms of the disease.