November 6, 2013
Curing Diseases With Lasers
“Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you do die.” – Goldfinger, 1964.
Sure, it’s silly, but whenever I think of lasers, this is the sort of thing I think of; James Bond being tied down to a table with a giant laser/death-ray hanging over him and the villainous Goldfinger leering down at him, just aching to do some sort of maniacal bad-guy laugh. It’s corny, it’s over-the-top, and it is wonderful. Lasers can do far more than just cut secret agents in half, though. Doctors have used them for some time in the treatment of various ailments, as well as in corrective surgery, especially that of the eyes. Recently, though, researchers have discovered a whole new use for lasers that could lead to new treatments for, and even the curing of, diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, better known to most as “mad cow.”
Together, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and Wroclaw University of Technology in Poland have discovered a way of curing these various terrible diseases with lasers, or, to be more accurate, phototherapy. By using a multi-photon laser technique, they discovered that it is possible to distinguish the areas where amyloid beta proteins have aggregated in large clusters and inhibit proper cellular processes, which are believed to be the causes of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease from the normal, healthy proteins in the body. If these bad proteins were removed, then the disease would be cured. Sound easy? Well, until now, amyloid protein aggregates have been treated via chemical methods, both for detection of the malfunctioning proteins and for treatment and removal. These chemicals are highly toxic and harmful to the patients, making the cure almost as bad as the disease itself. By using the multi-photon laser technique discovered by the researchers from Chalmers and Wroclaw, the harmful chemical treatment would be entirely unnecessary. Nor would there be any need for invasive surgery, as the lasers could remove the harmful proteins without touching any of the surrounding, properly functioning tissues. While each of these diseases has different kinds of amyloid beta proteins that cause them, the structure of these anomalies is the same, which is how they can be tracked and identified by the multi-photon laser technique. This knowledge would completely revolutionize how these terrible diseases are treated, making them much safer for the patients.
With so many people in the world suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, this breakthrough has been long awaited. At last, there is hope for a more permanent, safer treatment to these horrible ailments. At long last, their suffering may be coming to a happy end.
Lasers are awesome.
Image Credit: Thinkstock