08/12/2016 11:52 GMT | Updated 08/12/2016 12:31 GMT

Strobe Lighting Could Help In The Fight Against Alzheimer's Disease

Scientists said they were 'optimistic' after tests on mice.

Strobe lighting could prove to be an unusual but effective treatment to stave off Alzheimer’s, according to a groundbreaking study.

MIT researchers have found that flashing lights into mice’s eyes triggered cells to consume the plaque-forming proteins believed to cause the disease.

They are now looking to test the treatment on humans and have set up a company to ramp up development, the BBC reported.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, with more than 850,000 people in Britain suffering from the illness.

Scientists have been attempting to develop drugs to prevent plaque formation for years.

But a highly anticipated test of the drug solanezumab proved a major disappointment last month after the treatment failed to slow cognitive decline.

However, the flashing light therapy could represent an alternative avenue for research.

PASIEKA via Getty Images
Composite image of a computer graphic of a vertical (coronal) slice through the brain of an Alzheimer's patient (orange) overlaid on a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of a normal brain (blue). The Alzheimer's brain is considerably shrunken.

Scientists tested the therapy, which uses a light that flickers so fast it looks constant, on mice genetically engineered to have Alzheimer’s.

Light stimulation directed to the hippocampus, the part of the brain that processes memories, led to a reduction of the offending protein – beta amyloid.

It’s believed to work by stimulating immune cells called microglia, scavengers that clear up pathogens, like meta amyloid.

MIT’s Dr Li-Huei Tsai told the BBC she was “optimistic” about the therapy, which uses “very low intensity, very ambient soft light”.

The researchers stressed that it would not trigger seizures in people who are epileptic. 

The study was published in Nature