Lasers might be the cure for brain diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's

November 3, 2013
This is a drawing representing structure of properly functioning protein (left) which is optically invisible to high power laser light, and toxic amyloid (right) responsible for brain diseases that might potentially be cured using lasers in photo therapies. Credit: Piotr Hanczyc

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, together with researchers at the Polish Wroclaw University of Technology, have made a discovery that may lead to the curing of diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (the so called mad cow disease) through photo therapy.

The researchers discovered, as they show in the journal Nature Photonics, that it is possible to distinguish aggregations of the proteins, believed to cause the diseases, from the the well-functioning proteins in the body by using multi-photon .

"Nobody has talked about using only light to treat these diseases until now. This is a totally new approach and we believe that this might become a breakthrough in the research of diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. We have found a totally new way of discovering these structures using just laser light", says Piotr Hanczyc at Chalmers University of Technology.

If the aggregates are removed, the disease is in principle cured. The problem until now has been to detect and remove the aggregates.

The researchers now harbor high hopes that photo acoustic therapy, which is already used for tomography, may be used to remove the malfunctioning proteins. Today amyloid are treated with chemicals, both for detection as well as removal. These chemicals are highly toxic and harmful for those treated.

With multi photon laser the chemical treatment would be unnecessary. Nor would surgery be necessary for removing of aggregates. Due to this discovery it might, thus, be possible to remove the harmful protein without touching the surrounding tissue.

These diseases arise when amyloid beta protein are aggregated in large doses so they start to inhibit proper cellular processes.

Different proteins create different kinds of amyloids, but they generally have the same structure. This makes them different from the well-functioning proteins in the body, which can now be shown by multi photon technique.

More information: Multiphoton absorption in amyloid protein fibres, DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2013.282

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5 / 5 (4) Nov 03, 2013
This would be a stunning accomplishment if it bears fruit...
not rated yet Nov 03, 2013
It sounds great, but what if the aggregates are just the symptoms of an underlying cause? Would it become a whack-a-mole situation?
5 / 5 (1) Nov 03, 2013
Wealthychef: It depends on whether the cause or the symptom was the actual problem. If the amyloid was a symptom of a problem that, by itself, produced few if any health effects, then eliminating the symptom would be a great advance. It wouldn't be a cure, but could be a periodic treatment. Think of a dirty floor. The dust is a symptom of normal wear and tear on surfaces, but removing it with a broom or vacuum cleaner solves the housekeeper's problems.

If the underlying cause is the source of the patient's problems, and the amyloid a harmless indicator that the cause exists, then this might be useful as a diagnostic tool, but not as a treatment.
not rated yet Nov 03, 2013
"Nobody has talked about using only light to treat these diseases until now."

That would appear to be an overstatement of the case.

1.7 / 5 (11) Nov 04, 2013
It sounds great, but what if the aggregates are just the symptoms of an underlying cause? Would it become a whack-a-mole situation?

Even so, if it takes years for these proteins aggregates to form, sufferers might only have to go in for treatment once a year. Compared with the disease symptoms of gradual insanity and death. I think most patients would chose this treatment over toxic chemicals or invasive surgery.

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