Light therapy trials for Parkinson’s

The benefits of a novel infrared light therapy devices to people living with Parkinson’s will be evaluated in an international research study involving Flinders University in Adelaide.

Sydney-based medtech company Symbyx last month announced a ‘world’s first’ randomised control clinical trial to build on promising results from an earlier pilot study.

The company is working with research groups in Adelaide, Sydney and Canada on the first long-term, double-blinded, placebo trial of the technology to assess the effects of light therapy (also known as photobiomodulation) on motor and non-motor skills in Parkinson’s patients over a much longer period this year.

Users have reported greater mobility and fine motor skills, as well as improved cognition, including better mood (less apathy and depression), sleep and even the return of a sense of smell.

Dr Joyce Ramos is a Lecturer and Course Coordinator of the Bachelor of Exercise Science and Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology programs at Flinders University.

The Flinders University trial protocols will broadly follow those currently under investigation in the Parkinson’s RCT being undertaken in Toronto, Canada.

Funded and led by The Hospital Research Foundation Group – Parkinson’s, the principal investigator of the Adelaide trial will be Dr Joyce Ramos, Lecturer in Clinical Exercise Physiology at Flinders University.

Recruitment for the six-month randomised clinical study will commence in coming months, led by The Hospital Research Foundation Group – Parkinson’s team. Executive director, Ms Olivia Nassaris, says Christmas Appeal and philanthropic donations will fund the trial.

“We chose to look into the area of photobiomodulation because of strong community interest. The community is very interested in a complementary therapy that causes no harm and can possibly improve every day living,” says Ms Nassaris from The Hospital Research Foundation Group – Parkinson’s.

Adelaide resident Margaret Jarrett – who supported the group’s Christmas Appeal – says regular use of the helmet and handheld devices helps her live independently and better manage her condition.

Symbyx CEO Dr Wayne Markman says: “The trial should yield valuable data on whether our PDCare Laser slows or even halts disease progression and by how much.

“We already know that patients derive significant short-term benefits from our therapy,” Dr Markman says.

“This is absolutely critical research into what historically has been an intractable, neurodegenerative condition that typically doesn’t improve”.

Results from the pilot study were published last year in BMC Neurology. Participants in an earlier trial were assessed for mobility, balance, cognition, fine motor skill and sense of smell on enrolment and again at 12 weeks and after 33 weeks of home treatment.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive degenerative disease affecting up to 10 million people globally and about 100,000 Australians, mainly aged over 60. It is the second most common degenerative neurological disorder after Alzheimer’s disease.

Linked to the dysfunction of the mitochondria of neurons in the brain, the disease can cause tremors, difficulty with movement and motor skills, along with decreasing cognitive function. The neurodegenerative disorder affects the dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain.

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