Parkinson’s Disease

Professor John Mitrofanis (University of Sydney) and Professor Alim Louis Benabid (CEA-LETI Grenoble University) have been research collaborators for some years now, investigating the effects of near infrared light on the dopamine-producing cells damaged by Parkinson’s Disease.

Benabid developed the original deep brain stimulation implant which has become a standard part of Parkinson’s Disease treatment. The collaboration between Benabid and Mitrofanis aims to develop a near infrared deep brain implant for Parkinson’s Disease. With large financial support from bodies such as the Michael J Fox Foundation, Benabid and Mitrofanis have shown that direct exposure to near infrared light stimulates dopamine-producing neurones to resume normal function, develop new connections and, most excitingly, to create new dopamine-producing cells. Their careful research has led to the development of a near infrared brain implant, soon to be used in clinical trials in France.

Their research team showed very clearly that near infrared light not only has a direct effect on Parkinson’s Disease symptoms, it also has an indirect effect. The helmet study elegantly showed that mice with chemically induced Parkinson’s, with only their bodies (not their heads) exposed to near infrared light improved in mobility and function. This has led the researchers to propose that the indirect effect of near infrared light is most likely transported by the immune cells in the blood stream. Clearly the indirect effect is not as potent as the direct effect, hence their research focus on the deep brain light implant.

In late 2015, our volunteers started “playing” with trans-cranial near infrared light, on the basis that it is able to penetrate through the skin and skull, it is non-invasive (no brain surgery) and it is safe. Our group’s work was not official medical research, but came from the interest of individuals in the rapidly evolving research into the effects of near infrared light on mitochondrial function, and the implications for neurodegenerative disorders.

The test case was a man in his mid seventies with a 7 year history of Parkinson’s Disease. Using 670nm LED strip, a “light hat” was fashioned, and used once daily for 20 minutes. Within a few months of daily light use, his symptoms had improved to the extent that his treating specialist suggested that other patients try it out. The group contacted Prof John Mitrofanis at the University of Sydney; he was interested and supportive, keen to see how the patients fared with light hats. He provided research findings that enabled the light hats to be improved, and he is writing up for publication some of the earliest case studies.

The light hats were made by the volunteers in the group and given to patients at no cost to the patients. As more people with Parkinson’s Disease and other neurodegenerative disorders joined in, it became more important to the group that the gift of light hats was continued.

To this end, a not-for profit association is being established and it will seek charity status.  The plan is to continue to make light hats available to patients through this organisation and to promote formal research into trans-cranial near infrared light for neurodegenerative disorders. Other volunteers are planning to do something similar in France.

Recent Publications by John Mitrofanis

Red and near infrared light

Sunlight has a range of wavelengths, and these have been classified into four main groups: ultraviolet, visible, near infrared and far infrared. We can see the light in the visible spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue indigo, violet) but we can’t see ultraviolet light and neither can we see infrared light.

Much research has been done on the effect of the sun’s ultraviolet light. It can cause premature ageing and increases the risk of skin cancers, hence the warnings to wear sunscreen to block those wavelengths from hitting the skin.

Until recent years, the effect of red and near infrared light, had been of less interest to medical science. It is now an area of increasing research, and the implications seem to be huge.

In 2015 an article with the rather daunting title Light Effect on Water Viscosity: Implications for ATP Biosynthesis, appeared in the journal Nature. It gave a very detailed description of the mechanism by which near infrared light can change the way that cells function.

Over the decades, there had been reports about the effectiveness of red and near infrared light on a range of medical conditions, but it was not taken terribly seriously in the early days. It seemed too good to be true.

  • How could shining a red/near infrared light onto a wound make it heal more rapidly?
  • How could shining red/near infrared light onto your head improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s Disease or Alzheimer’s Disease?
  • How could shining red/near infrared light onto arthritic joints and sore muscles improve the joint and muscle function, and reduce pain?

I certainly was sceptical. The disdain started to dissipate on finding that there are good quality peer-reviewed medical research articles consistently showing that red/near infrared light had very desirable health effects in a range of different diseases.

Miserable mitochondria could be the fundamental problem in many diseases…

It is looking like many of the diseases, however they start and whichever part of the body they target, all end up with a common problem – poorly functioning mitochondria.

  • Give the miserable mitochondria a burst of red/near infrared light, and they fire into action. For a while. Give them another burst, and they fire up again.
  • Give the miserable mitochondria regular (eg twice daily) bursts of light, and the cell is able to function effectively on a day to day basis.

There is so much more to tell. The research findings are flooding in.

Keep tabs on this blog as it explores the medical literature on red and near infrared light.