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The helmet that could turn back the symptoms of Alzheimer's

By DAVID DERBYSHIRE

 An experimental helmet which scientists say could reverse the
 symptoms of Alzheimer's disease within weeks of being used is to be
 tried out on patients.

 The strange-looking headgear - which has to be worn for ten minutes
 every day - bathes the brain with infra-red light and stimulates the
 growth of brain cells.

 Its creators believe it could reverse the symptoms of dementia -
 such as memory loss and anxiety - after only four weeks.

 Alzheimer's disease charities last night described the treatment
 as "potentially life- changing" - but stressed that the research was
 still at the very early stages.

 Around 700,000 Britons have dementia, with around 500,000 suffering
 from Alzheimer's disease.

 The helmet is the creation of Dr Gordon Dougal, a director of
 Virulite, a medical research company based in County Durham.

 It follows a study at the University of Sunderland which found infra-
 red light can reverse memory loss in mice.

 Dr Dougal claims that only ten minutes under the hat a day is enough
 to have an effect.

 "Currently all you can do with dementia is to slow down the rate of
 decay - this new process will not only stop that rate of decay but
 partially reverse it," he said.

 Low level infra-red red is thought to stimulate the growth of cells
 of all types of tissue and encourage their repair. It is able to
 penetrate the skin and even get through the skull.

 "The implications of this research at Sunderland are enormous - so
 much so that in the future we could be able to affect and change the
 rate at which our bodies age," he said.

 "We age because our cells lose the desire to regenerate and repair
 themselves. This ultimately results in cell death and decline of the
 organ functions - for the brain resulting in memory decay and
 deterioration in general intellectual performance.

 "But what if there was a technology that told the cells to repair
 themselves and that technology was something as simple as a specific
 wavelength of light?"

 The study at Sunderland found that exposing middle-aged mice to
 infrared light for six minutes a day for ten days improved their
 performance in a three-dimensional maze. In the human trials, due to
 start this summer, the scientists will use levels of infra-red that
 occur naturally in sunlight.

 Neuroscientist Paul Chazot, who helped carry out the research,
 said: "The results are completely new - this has never been looked
 at before."

 An Alzheimer's Society spokesman said: "A treatment that reverses
 the effects of dementia rather than just temporarily halting its
 symptoms could change the lives of the hundreds of thousands of
 people. We look forward to further research to determine whether
 this technique could help improve cognition in humans."


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