Red lights connect cells

Near-infrared light can restore the function of damaged dopamine-producing cells.

Thanks to Jane from South Australia for alerting me to this research article.*

Anything that is published in a medical journal called Molecular Degeneration and which starts with “reduced axonal transport in Parkinson’s disease cybrid neurites…” sounds a bit daunting, but it is a very interesting read, and you can download the full article.

The researchers were able to use cells taken from people with and without Parkinson’s disease (PD) and then compare the way that these cells function. They knew that the dopamine-producing cells that are first affected by Parkinson’s have very long axons – imagine cables that connect one cell with a bunch of other cells in a distant part of the brain. They also knew that these long axons or cables are poorly insulated in all of us, and so they tend to be vulnerable to damage.

The researchers first checked an earlier finding, that in Parkinson’s these very long axons arising from dopamine-producing cells lose efficiency in communicating with other parts of the brain. Yep, they clearly showed that PD-affected axons were deficient, compared with non-PD axons.

Having established this, they turned to the interesting part of their study, shining a short burst of 810nm (near infrared light) onto the PD cells. Suddenly the axons from these PD-affected dopamine-producing cells sprang to life, and started behaving as if they didn’t come from someone with PD.

Of course, once the effect of the 810nm wore off, the axons from the PD cells went back to their original dismal level of activity. No surprises there, as all the evidence shows that there needs to be regular bursts of red or near infrared light on the cells to get them fired up again and again. This is why Prof Alim Benabid and Prof John Mitrofanis developed the intra-cranial red light device in 2016 (like the deep-brain stimulation device only with red light instead of an electric current.)

So what does this research tell us? It gives more insight into how PD-damaged brain cells respond to the presence of red and near infrared lights. The batteries in PD-damaged cells, the mitochondria, get an energy recharge from red light, immediately sending fuel to these long, vulnerable axons along with a metaphorical kick in the rear-end.

We know from our experience with people using light devices on their heads on a daily basis, be it a bucket Eliza, an elegant Cossack or a sophisticated Coronet, that improvements occur. In some people it is slow and subtle, in others it is fast and obvious – everyone is different.

After three years of observing people with PD wearing daily red and near infrared light hats, I think that the lights slow down the progress of the disease. I can’t prove it, but the people I’m observing continue to give every reason to support this notion. And journal articles like this continue to add to the knowledge base – red and near infrared lights are much more than mere Christmas decorations…

*Trimmer PA et al, Reduced axonal transport in Parkinson’s disease cybrid neurites is restored by light therapy. Mol Neurodegener. 2009 Jun 17;4:26. doi: 10.1186/1750-1326-4-26.

Author: RedlightsontheBrain

Redlightsonthebrain is written by Catherine Hamilton, a retired doctor on behalf of Light Ahead Inc, a Tasmanian-based not-for-profit organisation. Light Ahead Inc aims to help people to learn about neurogenerative diseases and the practical, safe and scientifically-based things that may be able to help. Part of this is to provide low-cost access to red light devices, hence the DIY instructions on this blog. All sales of the Coronet red light device support the work of Light Ahead Inc.