Finding a cure for Alzheimer's disease has defied medical researchers for decades now, but a team of scientists just gave us new reason to hope. They've discovered a way to zap away the bad proteins that cause diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Creutzfeldt-Jakob (a.k.a. mad cow) disease—with lasers.
It's so simple, it's incredible. The Polish-Swedish team of researchers developed a multi-photon laser technique that can distinguish between healthy proteins and toxic amyloids. Because the healthy proteins are "optically invisible" to the high-powered lasers—and, thus, less likely to be zapped—the scientists think those lasers can be used to detect and remove the bad proteins. It's a completely new way of thinking about treatment. "Nobody has talked about using only light to treat these diseases until now," said Piotr Hanczyc at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. "We have found a totally new way of discovering these structures using just laser light."
Currently, doctors use harmful chemicals to remove amyloid proteins—but that can be harmful to the patient, as well. It's not the first time doctors have thought about blasting light into patients' skulls as part of a treatment program. Back in 2008, a British team of researchers came up with a method that used infrared light to stimulate brain cell growth and thus help combat the disease. However, this new method would actually eradicate the disease altogether, rather than simply treat it.
The timing is just right for a new treatment for Alzheimer's. In the past few months alone, we've come up with several new ways to diagnose the disease. A cure feels like a good next step. [Chalmers Univ.]
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