ScienceDaily (Jan. 26, 2008) - Medical experts in the North-East of England believe they could have found the key to turning back the brain's biological clock and reverse the effects of dementia and memory loss.
Pioneering research at the University of Sunderland has shown that regular exposure to safe low level infra-red light can improve learning performance and kick-start the cognitive function of the brain.
The results are a scientific breakthrough as to date medical treatments for dementia can only slow down brain deterioration and now human trials are to start to see if the treatment could provide a cure to illnesses like Alzheimer's.
Independent research carried out at Sunderland has demonstrated that low power infra-red (1072nm) can improve the learning performance.
The low levels of infra-red light used are completely safe and occur naturally in sunlight. They are currently being used in innovative new machines for the treatment of cold sores, which have been approved for NHS prescription.
Experts claim that early stage dementia patients should see an improvement in their cognitive function within four weeks, by wearing a lightweight helmet in their home for just ten minutes a day.
Human testing of the ground-breaking infra-red treatment on the brain is due to start this summer and medical experts hope this will halt and even reverse the effects of dementia.
The new infra-red device was created by Dr Gordon Dougal, a director of Virulite - a medical research company based in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham - which is also behind the innovative cold sore machine.
He came up with the idea of using a safe level of infra red light on the human brain after it had proved effective in the treatment of cold sores – a process that relies on boosting the cells within the body responsible for killing the virus, rather than attacking it.
Dr Dougal said: “The implications of this research at the University of Sunderland are enormous – so much so that in the future, we could be able to affect and change the rate at which our bodies age.
"As we get older, cells stop repairing themselves and we age because our cells lose the desire to regenerate and repair themselves. This ultimately results in cell death and decline of the organ functions, for the brain resulting in memory decay and deterioration in general intellectual performance.
"But what if there was a technology that told the cells to repair themselves and that technology was something as simple as a specific wavelength of light? Near infrared light penetrates human tissues relatively well, even penetrating the human skull, just as sunlight passes through frosted glass."
Dr Dougal, who claims that ten minutes of exposure to the infrared light daily would have the desired effect on the brain, added: "Currently all you can do with dementia is to slow down the rate of decay - this new process will not only stop that rate of decay but partially reverse it."
The research by University of Sunderland neuroscientist, Dr Abdel Ennaceur has led Dr Dougal to arrange clinical trials with patients with age related memory problems.
Fellow neuroscientist Paul Chazot, who helped carry out the research, added: "The treatment can indeed improve learning ability. The results are completely new - this has never been looked at before.
"Dr Dougal's treatment might have some potential in improving learning in a human situation by delivering infra red through the thinnest parts of the skull to get maximum access to the brain."
Further research work will continue in this area, funded by CELS, who support Healthcare research and development in universities, hospitals and companies within the North East of England.
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