By Dava Stewart
People who live with neurodegenerative diseases live with progressively worsening conditions—Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and a host of other illnesses cause the cells of the brain to die and have no cure. Problems with movement and dementia are two of the most debilitating burdens of neurodegenerative conditions,1 and researchers are investigating the possibility of low level laser therapy (LLLT) as a treatment option for people suffering from these conditions.
Although research continues, some intriguing study results have been reached. In a paper titled “Low level laser therapy regulates microglial function through Src-mediated signaling pathways: implications for neurodegenerative diseases” researchers concluded:
“The present study underlines the importance of Src in suppressing inflammation and enhancing microglial phagocytic function in activated microglia during LLLT stimulation. We have identified a new and important neuroprotective signaling pathway that consists of regulation of microglial phagocytosis and inflammation under LLLT treatment. Our research may provide a feasible therapeutic approach to control the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.” 2
Another study, published in Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, looked at the effect of different wavelengths in using LLLT to treat traumatic brain injury in mice. In the objective section of that paper, the researchers stated,
“The fact that near-infrared light can penetrate into the brain would allow non-invasive treatment to be carried out with a low likelihood of treatment-related adverse events.” 3
As yet, LLLT has not caused any side effects in the instances when it is used for wound healing or in soft tissue injuries. If LLLT can effectively treat those with neurodegenerative conditions without side effects, the implications would be enormous. Researchers understand the potential benefits of LLLT clearly, and studies are beginning to yield information about exactly how and why LLLT can be help patients with neurodegenerative conditions, as well as other conditions that are characterized by malfunctioning brain cells.
In a research paper titled “Potential for Transcranial Laser or LED Therapy to Treat Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Neurodegenerative Diseases,” researchers stated,
“TLT may be thought to be just in its infancy, but we believe the stage is set for rapid growth, especially in view of the massive and continuing failure of clinical trials of pharmaceuticals for many brain disorders. As the population continues to age, and the epidemic of degenerative diseases of aging such as AD and other dementias continues to grow, TLT may make a real contribution to patient health.” 4
DCs currently using LLLT to help patients with soft tissue and other common chiropractic conditions are in a good position to be on the edge of the learning curve as researchers learn more about how LLLT can help those with neurodegenerative disorders. More study is necessary in order to understand exactly how LLLT works in the brain, but current research is promising.
1JPND Research. “What is a neurodegenerative disease?” EU Joint Programme — Neurodegenerative Disease Reesarch. http://www.neurodegenerationresearch.eu/about/what/. Updated 2014. Accessed October 2014.
2Song S, et al. Low-level laser therapy regulates microglial function through Src-mediated signaling pathways: implications for neurodegenerative diseases. Journal of Neuroinflammation. 2012:9(219).
3Ando T, Dai T, Dhital S, et al. Low-Level Laser Therapy for Closed-Head Traumatic Brain Injury in Mice: Effect of Different Wavelengths. Lasers Surg. Med. 2012:44(3);218-226.
4Hamblin MR, Naeser MA. Potential for Transcranial Laser or LED Therapy to Treat Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Neurodegenerative Disease. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. 2011:29(7);443-446.