Infrared lasers may help treat Alzheimer’s disease

Credit: CC0 Public Domain.

A notable characteristic of several neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, is the formation of harmful plaques that contain aggregates—also known as fibrils—of amyloid proteins.

Unfortunately, even after decades of research, getting rid of these plaques has remained a herculean challenge.

Thus, the treatment options available to patients with these disorders are limited and not very effective.

In recent years, instead of going down the chemical route using drugs, some scientists have turned to alternative approaches, such as ultrasound, to destroy amyloid fibrils and halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

In a new study, researchers have used novel methods to show how infrared-laser irradiation can destroy amyloid fibrils.

The research was conducted by a team at the Tokyo University of Science and elsewhere.

In their study, the scientists present the results of laser experiments and molecular dynamics simulations.

They used a portion of a yeast protein that is known to form amyloid fibrils on its own.

In their laser experiments, they tuned the frequency of an infrared laser beam to that of the “amide I band” of the fibril, creating resonance.

Scanning electron microscopy images confirmed that the amyloid fibrils disassembled upon laser irradiation at the resonance frequency, and a combination of spectroscopy techniques revealed details about the final structure after fibril dissociation.

Through the simulations, the scientists observed that the process begins at the core of the fibril where the resonance breaks intermolecular hydrogen bonds and thus separates the proteins in the aggregate.

The disruption to this structure then spreads outward to the extremities of the fibril.

Together, the experiment and simulation make a good case for a novel treatment possibility for neurodegenerative disorders.

The team says in view of the inability of existing drugs to slow or reverse the cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease, developing non-pharmaceutical approaches is very desirable.

The ability to use infrared lasers to dissociate amyloid fibrils opens up a promising approach.

All these efforts will hopefully light a beacon of hope for those dealing with Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative diseases.

One author of the study is Dr. Takayasu Kawasaki (IR-FEL Research Center, Tokyo University of Science, Japan).

The study is published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry B.

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