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January 10, 2020

Could photobiomodulation be a breakthrough for Alzheimer’s disease?

By GlobalData Healthcare

A Canadian biotechnology company leader in brain photobiomodulation (PBM) technology, Vielight, has developed a new headset device that could be a medical and therapeutic breakthrough for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients. PBM involves the therapeutic use of red or near-infrared light to relieve pain, stimulate healing, decrease inflammation, and prevent tissue from dying. The device, called Neuro RX Gamma, could help to reverse the course of the disease by delivering shining light through the nose and skull.

According to scientists and early preliminary data from a recent study, this device showed improvements in the brain areas damaged by AD, such as improved writing and reading skills, restored memory, improved sleep rates, anxiety, and stress, reduced tantrums, and raised cognitive development. The pivotal trial started in June 2019 in the US and Canada, involves 228 subjects, and will assess the active Neuro RX Gamma use in patients with moderate to severe AD for six days a week for 24 weeks. The primary completion date of the study is expected in May 2021.

The Neuro RX Gamma is a non-invasive device for home use that delivers near-infrared energy, pulsing at the gamma rate of 40Hz, to the region responsible for memory in the brain, in daily treatment sessions of 20 minutes where the patients wear the device and a separate nasal clip that channels light through the nostrils. Daily treatment with PBM could restore mitochondrial activity and remove toxic proteins that build up in the brain, such as β-amyloid peptide (Aβ). Amyloid plaque is a common hallmark of AD and the main target for pharmacological therapies, as the buildup of these plaques is thought to lead to the progressive destruction of brain cells.

The mechanism of action of PBM therapy may produce a large range of benefits in the brain without major side effects, as the device is safe and only minor side effects were reported such as difficulty in sleeping and slight headaches. Moreover, the home use of PBM devices can be applied by caregivers and it could be beneficial also for their quality of life.

Currently, treatments for AD consist only of symptomatic treatments that only manage to slow the onset of dementia, of which there are only five approved medications: three cholinesterase inhibitors (ChEIs) (donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine), one N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDA-R) antagonist (memantine), and one combination therapy (memantine/donepezil).

Recent attempts at developing pharmacotherapies for AD have failed to reach the market and if successful, this technology would be the first to actually reverse the disease. More research is needed to test these devices in AD patients, but this new evidence can open new opportunities for the development of new treatments for AD and make a step forward in AD research.

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