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Op-Ed: Parkinson’s treatment with buckets and red lights works?

That is a major deal, and there’s more. The story is truly a classic. A Tasmanian lady called Grace Winiecki (pictured) was diagnosed 11 years ago. That’s long enough to have a pretty advanced condition. She now wears a bucket with LED red lights on it for her Parkinson’s, and feels better. Her friend with Parkinson’s tried it, and many others also report feeling much better. (Try finding too many people with Parkinson’s who have that tale to tell.)

The treatment is known as “photobiomodulation ”, or Low Level Light Therapy, and this particular treatment was pioneered by University of Sydney’s John Mitrofanis, who used the method on mice. The red lights stopped nerve cells from dying, and the treatment was then extrapolated to Parkinson’s which is a severe neurological disease characterised by many grim nerve symptoms.

The first human trial was on a former Federal politician called Max Burr, who reported “quite substantial improvements” after a 5 month trial. The buckets have created such a stir of interest that it’s now being evaluated for “proof of concept” as a treatment for Parkinson’s, meaning “Does it really work?”
A simple, but penetrant, theory
The theory is that red light can penetrate cells and provide energy for mitochondria, the power plants in every cell. The cells affected in Parkinson’s are cells which produce dopamine, required for proper nervous function. You can see where this is going – Reboot the mitochondria, you reboot the cells producing the dopamine, and symptoms are reduced, apparently to a considerable extent.
Take this very interesting, not to say potentially revolutionary, idea a few steps further, and you can see why everyone’s getting so excited. The mere fact that anything has a strong positive effect on a hard target like Parkinson’s Disease is big news by any standards. A treatment which may have multiple applications in just about all forms of neurology, however, is getting to the Nobel Prize level.
A revolution in neurology?
Neurological diseases, and there are many of them, typically degenerate nerves, causing in some cases extreme pain, dysfunction, and perhaps years of these conditions, sometimes getting progressively worse. A treatment which involves making a bucket with red lights in it to manage those symptoms is like Christmas.
Apply this method to the other very nasty neurological diseases, (Alzheimer’s Motor Neuron Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, etc. and neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington’s Disease) and it could revolutionize neurology in countless ways. This method of treatment may have adaptions to a virtual encyclopedia of conditions.
Tissues, too? General health?
Mitochondria are strange things. Every cell has one. They literally keep organisms alive and functional. What if it was possible to recharge people after surgery with these red lights, to promote healing, or some other strong positive? What if general health could be improved by some sort of similar treatment? Recharging mitochondria could well be that useful.
Also significant, it seems that Low Level Light Therapy has quite a track record as a developmental research subject, dating back to the 1960s. Maybe this is the first, critical (not to say dramatic) proof of the value of this type of therapy? If so, the gadget for putting yourself back together after one of life’s little asteroid strikes may be about to evolve. Imagine a method of treating so many things! It’s quite astonishing.
Let’s hope that the Parkinson’s sufferers get the relief they’ve needed for so long. That condition is no joke, and beating it will be a triumph.

Written By

Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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