Brain Health & Aging

Could LED light the way in the treating of Alzheimer’s?

Infrared – light frequencies at the far end of the red spectrum – is used widely in medicine, particularly in lasers to heal scars and reduce wrinkles. But whereas lasers emit hot, high-energy light, low-level LED light is cooler and causes no pain.

‘It is thought to stimulate the growth of cells of all types of tissue,’ says Dr Abdel Ennaceur of the University of Sunderland, who is assessing whether infrared light could reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Potential: Infrared light can promote blood flow and boost muscle relaxation

Dr Ennaceur is testing a helmet that bathes the brain with infrared light. By wearing it for ten minutes a day, it is hoped that patients’ memory and cognition will improve in just ten weeks.

‘Cells have been found to grow 150 per cent to 200 per cent faster than cells not given an infrared bath,’ says Professor Harry Whelan of the Medical College of Wisconsin, where trials of infrared light for 80 seconds a day for two weeks prevented and treated throat and mouth ulcers in cancer patients.

At the University of Tel Aviv, infrared light promoted healing in people with nasal allergies.

So how does it work? ‘At appropriate wavelengths and doses it is absorbed by molecules inside cells called chromophores,’ says Professor Chukuka Enwemeka at the New York Institute of Technology. ‘This energy is then converted into a biological form that can be used to heal cells.’

Tissues can be triggered to grow back when exposed to certain light frequencies. LED infrared light is within the ‘healing range’ and can be absorbed up to a depth of 10cm.

It has been found to promote healing of skin, muscle, nerves, tendons, bone and gums – even to trigger the regeneration of spinal cord tissue.

Dr Whelan says: ‘LED infrared light might one day help those who are paralysed to walk again. It could also prevent certain forms of blindness. There are all sorts of potential uses.’

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