A new flashing light therapy might help ward off Alzheimer’s, say US scientists after promising trials in mice. The Massachusetts team found shining a strobe light into rodents’ eyes encouraged protective cells to gobble up the harmful proteins that accumulate in the brain in this type of dementia.
The perfect rate of flashes was 40 per second – a barely perceptible flicker, four times as fast as a disco strobe. The researchers say the approach should be tested in humans. They are already seeking permission from the US regulator, the Food and Drugs Administration, and have set up a commercial company to develop the technology. Build-up of beta amyloid protein is one of the earliest changes seen in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease. It clumps together to form sticky plaques and is thought to cause nerve cell death and memory loss. Researchers have been looking for ways to prevent plaque formation using drugs, but the results have been disappointing.