Neuroinflammation vs Neurodegeneration

I’ve been reading an interesting 2016 review article called Cytokine networks in neuroinflammation.*

Click here for the abstract.

Some of the differences between neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration are beautifully explained. Both diagrams come from this article.

Background

Cells in our body and brain produce cytokines, small proteins that are powerful and wilful little beasties. They provide a very effective means of cell communication, and can “orchestrate complex multicellular behaviour”.

Over 300 different cytokines have been identified, but some of them have shown that in one situation they will behave in one way, but in another situation the same cytokine will do the complete opposite.

Cytokines are part of the body and brain’s response to something going wrong. But cytokines themselves can go haywire (called cytokine network dysfunction or dysregulation) and set up and maintain cascades of activity that can ultimately cause harm to the tissue.

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Can red light stop brain cells from dying?

It’s been longer than intended since the blog was updated. During this time, a new article by John Mitrofanis was published in April 2017, called Why and how does light therapy offer neuroprotection in Parkinson’s disease? You can download it here: Link.

This is a great article with much detail explained with great clarity. Even better, it is only two pages.

It poses two critical questions:

  1. Can red/near infrared light protect brain cells from dying?
  2. If yes, then how does the light do that?

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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.

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