A new study shows flickering light kicks off brain waves that clean a protein related to Alzheimer's disease out of mice's brains. The results were described online on December 7th in Nature magazine, and suggest a fundamentally new approach to counteracting Alzheimer's. Many potential therapies involve drugs that target amyloid-beta. That's the sticky protein that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. In contrast, the new method used on mice causes certain nerve cells to fire at a specific rhythm, generating brain waves that researchers believe may clear A-beta. Paul Rosenberg is a geriatric psychiatrist from Johns Hopkins Medicine. He told Science News, "This is a very creative and innovative new approach to targeting brain amyloid load in Alzheimer's." However, he cautions that the mouse results are preliminary.

After a promising experiment with mice, US scientists says flashing light therapy might help ward off Alzheimer’s.

According to a Massachusetts Team, flickering a strobe light into the rodents’ eyes induce protective cells that help clear toxic proteins that the brain acquires in this kind of disease.

They found that 40 hertz per second is the perfect frequency for the flash – a not so obvious flicker which is about four times faster than disco strobe.

The expert says, humans should undergo a clinical trial to test the therapy.

The experts have set up a company to commercialize their experiment, and have already asked authorization from the US regulator, the Food and Drugs Administration.

Beta Amyloid Plaques

The build-up of beta amyloid protein is one of the initial changes seen in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients.

It masses together to form a sticky plaque which is believed to be the cause of nerve cell death and memory loss.

Experts have been exploring different ways to hamper plaque clumps using drugs, however, it always led to failure.

But Dr. Li-Huei Tsai and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology discover another way, using light.

MIT_BuildingAccording to reports, “The mice that they studied were genetically engineered to have Alzheimer’s-type damage in their brain.”

Based on their experiment, when the mice were put in front of the flashing light for an hour, it led to a noticeable reduction in beta amyloid over the next 12 to 24 hours in the parts of the brain that handle vision.

Doing this over the course of a week led to even greater reductions.

Likewise, light treatment pointing to the part of the brain that deals with memory – the hippocampus – led to reductions of beta amyloid there.

According to experts, the light works by recruiting the help of resident immune cells called microglia.

Microglia’s are considered as scavengers. They consume and clean up toxic or hostile pathogens, beta amyloid, in this case

They believe that reducing beta amyloid and preventing more plaques from forming could hamper Alzheimer’s and its symptoms.

“We are optimistic,” Dr. Tsai remarked.

In the future, the scientists say people may perhaps wear special goggles or stay in front of a light-emitting device to receive a therapeutic dosage of the strobe light.

The procedure should be completely free of pain and non-invasive for the patient

For the patient, it should be entirely painless and non-invasive.

“We can use a very low intensity, very ambient soft light,” the scientists said. “You can hardly see the flicker itself”.

“The set-up is not offensive at all,” they added, emphasizing that the method should be safe and would not start an epileptic episode in susceptible persons.

“Studies like this are valuable in revealing new processes implicated in Alzheimer’s disease and opening new avenues for further research,” Dr. David Reynolds, of Alzheimer’s Research, UK stated.

“While mice used in this study showed some key features of Alzheimer’s, it is always important to follow up these findings in people.”