For over a century, Alzheimer’s disease has confounded all attempts to treat it. But in recent years, perplexing experiments using flickering light have shown promise.
Now, researchers have tapped into how the flicker may work. They discovered in the lab that the exposure to light pulsing at 40 hertz – 40 beats per second – causes brains to release a surge of signaling chemicals that may help fight the disease.
Though conducted on healthy mice, this new study is directly connected to human trials, in which Alzheimer’s patients are exposed to 40 Hz light and sound. Insights gained in mice at the Georgia Institute of Technology are informing the human trials in collaboration with Emory University.
“I’ll be running samples from mice in the lab, and around the same time, a colleague will be doing a strikingly similar analysis on patient fluid samples,” said Kristie Garza, the study’s first author. Garza is a graduate research assistant in the lab of Annabelle Singer at Georgia Tech and also a member of Emory’s neuroscience program.
One of the surging signaling molecules, in particular, is associated with the activation of brain immune cells called microglia, which purge an Alzheimer’s hallmark – amyloid beta plaque, junk protein that accumulates between brain cells.
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