A magic helmet to cure Alzheimer’s disease?

Several readers have e-mailed me this story. It’s about a device developed in the U.K.. Based on near infrared light (NIR), the device, it is claimed by its creator, will be a major step forward for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. He even made some very bold claims that it could not just slow the cognitive decline associated with dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease but actually reverse it.

Fortunately, a friend over at Science-Based Medicine has taken the time to separate the hype from the scientific basis behind this device. Suffice it to say that, although it’s not totally scientifically implausible, the reports are clearly more salesmanship than science. It’s possible that this device may be helpful in slowing the loss of neurons due to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s been by no means shown convincingly, even in mouse models. Let’s put it this way: The investigators should go back and do the work necessary to figure out if (1) there really is a mechanism by which NIR could ameliorate damage to neurons and (2) if there’s a shred of real scientific evidence that it actually works in humans before hyping it to the press like this.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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