The statistics on Alzheimer’s disease are daunting. More than five million Americans are living with the disease and by 2050 this number could be as high as 16 million. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, but the only disease among the top ten killers that cannot be prevented, slowed or cured. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease drug candidates have one of the highest failure rates of any disease area. The resulting human and economic tolls are significant: in 2017, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost the nation $259 billion.
Yet, there is a potential, flickering light at the end of the tunnel. Dr. Li-Huei Tsai, Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT, and her team of researchers have discovered that LED lights, flickering at a specific frequency, substantially reduce the beta amyloid plaques seen in Alzheimer’s disease, in the visual cortex of mice. Their work was published in the journal Nature in December 2016. If this finding bears out in humans, it is a game-changer.