Posted: 12:3a.m. IST, August 3, 2012
Sydney, Aug 3 (IANS) A non-invasive treatment with a soft infra-red light can protect and heal the damage to the human retina in Parkinson's disease, says a study.
Near infra-red light (NIR) treatment has long been known to promote the healing of wounds in soft tissues such as skin.
Our recent studies are showing that it can also protect the retina of the eye from toxins which attack its nerve cells, said Jonathan Stone, professor at the Vision Centre and the University of Sydney, who led the study.
We have been studying a mouse 'model' of Parkinson's disease, in which such a toxin is used to create a Parkinson-like condition. The toxin targets brain cells which use a particular signalling molecule called dopamine, and the infrared light - in the right dose and with the right timing - blocks the toxic effect, Stone was quoted as saying in the journal ISRN Neurology.
The toxin also kills certain key retinal cells, which use dopamine which are important in giving sharpness to the retina's coding of visual images. However, infrared light also protects these retinal cells and reduces the damage, according to a Vision Centre statement.
This protection or rescue of neurones (nerve cells) in the brain - and as we know now, in the retina - is better than the best established treatments for Parkinson's disease, said Stone.
The challenge now is to translate these findings, made in mouse models, to human patients suffering from Parkinson's disease.
How, for example, does the infrared light create this protection? The answer seems to be that the radiation reverses damage to the cells' machinery for the production of the energy it needs, from oxygen. With their energy production restored, damaged cells repair themselves, and resume function, he said.
Diseases like Parkinson's are seriously debilitating; for the individual the need is immediate. There is every reason for trials to be carried out as soon as possible, Stone added.