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SHINING NEW LIGHT ON HALTING THE PROGRESSION OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

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GALVESTON, Texas – A light that is barely visible to
the human eye could be the key to stopping the terrible
effects of Alzheimer’s.
A new study from The University of Texas Medical
Branch at Galveston shows that using near infrared light
on the heads of mice can effectively reduce vulnerability
to the damaging effects of a toxic chemical in the brain
known to be involved with the onset of Alzheimer’s. This
data is detailed in Scientific Reports.
UTMB researchers have previously found evidence
that amyloid beta protein pieces may underlie the early
stages of Alzheimer’s. These proteins disrupt the communication
between brain cells, driving the first noticeable
cognitive deficits. So, preventing this dysfunction
within the brain would be an effective therapeutic strategy
for the disease.
“Our findings provide evidence that near infrared light
can make the brain more resistant to the damaging effects
of amyloid beta,” said senior author Giulio Taglialatela,
neurology professor and director of the Mitchell Center
for Neurodegenerative Diseases at UTMB. “Near infrared
light therapy increases the health of the points of connection
between brain cells, thus decreasing the susceptibility
to the toxic proteins.”
In this study, the researchers shined a near infrared
LED light for up to 90 seconds a day, five days per week
for a month on the heads of regular mice and a separate
group of mice that were genetically engineered to have
brain abnormalities seen in Alzheimer’s. They found that
the toxic proteins wreaked less havoc on all of the lighttreated
mice compared with the genetically engineered
Alzheimer’s-like mice.
“We looked closely at the ability of the near infrared
light to mitigate the toxic binding of amyloid beta to
the points of communication between brain cells,” said
Michele Comerota, doctoral candidate in neuroscience.
“Preventing the toxic chemical from taking hold in the
brain may serve as a new means of protecting against
Alzheimer’s,” said Balaji Krishnan, assistant professor in
the department of neurology. This study was supported
by the National Institutes of Health and the Amon Carter
Foundation.
ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS MEDICAL
BRANCH: Texas’ first academic health center opened
its doors in 1891 and today has three campuses, four
health sciences schools, four institutes for advanced
study, a research enterprise that includes one of only two
national laboratories dedicated to the safe study of infectious
threats to human health, a Level 1 Trauma Center
and a health system offering a full range of primary
and specialized medical services throughout Galveston
County and the Texas Gulf Coast region. UTMB Health
is an institution in the University of Texas System and a
member of the Texas Medical Center.

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