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These Lasers Could Help Cure Brain Diseases

Researchers have designed a type of laser technique that is able to distinguish the bad — specifically, the proteins responsible for Alzheimer’s and similar diseases — from the good. Simply locating them could make removing them much easier.

What’s the Latest Development?

Researchers from universities in Sweden and Poland have found a way to include photoacoustic therapy in the search for treatments for brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. With their “multi-photon laser technique,” they are able to see into the brain and visually distinguish toxic accumulations of amyloid proteins from normal proteins. Theoretically, it may then be possible to use the laser to remove the bad proteins without damaging surrounding tissue, curing the disease in the process. Details of their research were published in Nature Photonics.

What’s the Big Idea?

The accumulation of harmful proteins in the brain — to the point where they begin to disrupt normal brain function — is strongly linked to diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob (the human version of mad cow disease). Chemicals normally used to both locate and remove these proteins are highly toxic themselves, and surgical intervention carries a host of risks as well. Researcher Piotr Hanczyc of the Chalmers University of Technology says, “Nobody has talked about using only light to treat these diseases until now.”

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