Jan 25 2008

Goofy Medical Snake Oil

Published by at 12:17 pm under All General Discussions

Boy, PT Barnum sure was right when he said something to the effect “there’s a fool born every minute”. With today’s population growth and the drop in education standards I think that number is fast approaching “every second”. For the latest “scientific” foolery masquerading as serious sciene we have the head electric head warmer hat (from Ronco?) for the cure of Alzheimer’s:

An experimental helmet which scientists say could reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease within weeks of being used is to be tried out on patients.

The strange-looking headgear – which has to be worn for ten minutes every day – bathes the brain with infra-red light and stimulates the growth of brain cells.

Around 700,000 Britons have dementia, with around 500,000 suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

The technical wonders of socialized medicine. Ugh. Let me focus everyone in on a very important part of the article, buried near the bottom:

The study at Sunderland found that exposing middle-aged mice to infrared light for six minutes a day for ten days improved their performance in a three-dimensional maze. In the human trials, due to start this summer, the scientists will use levels of infra-red that occur naturally in sunlight.

Emphasis mine. Yep, you can where this ridiculous thing for ten minutes a day and pay these guys gobs of your hard earned money or you can take a 20 minute walk outside everyday without a hat and get twice the dosage. Yep, there are cold and cloudy days – but it is the ‘average’ that counts I am sure. Anyway, if this does work then I am sure it can be shown quite easily and quickly in patience who do have the ability to get lots of sun everyday. And yet I somehow have my doubts about how heating up a rat’s mind and seeing faster runs through mazes is the same thing as undoing damage from Alzheimer’s. Must be my BS in Biology that is causing me to not see the connection.

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Goofy Medical Snake Oil”

  1. Mike M. says:

    Yes! Finally! Scientific proof that convertibles are Good For You.

    And that those of us who are ragtop owners are Superior People. 🙂

    (BTW, I haven’t owned a hardtop since 1985)

  2. garrettc says:

    Infra-red wavelengths peaking at 940 nm cause capillaries to emit nitrous oxide which is a common second messanger in cellular biology. The tissue level effect is vaso-dilation, in other words increased blood flow and tissue oxygenation. Infra-red light accelerates healing of decubitus ulcers, known as bedsores, in medical studies reported in speer-reviewed journals suchas Journal of Dermatology. It is widely used in Europeto promte healing of Diabetic ulsers on legs andarms where conventional EGF bandages have failed. A friend of mine with advanced type I diabetis, extensive neurasthenia and numbness in his legs and untreatable skin ulcer was able to revers the neurasthenia, return sensation to his legs and close the ulcer with daily treatments (much higher power dosage, I might add) in six months. Dramatic improvement was observed in three weeks.

    So, in short, it is worth a try. Poor cerebral circulation is a problem in Alzheimer’s patients.

    There is more than one way to skin a cat.

  3. WWS says:

    People with Alzheimer’s suffer enough indignities without having to be forced to sit around in stupid “hi-teck” tinfoil hats just so some clowns can get rich.

  4. AJStrata says:


    I am aware of the benefits of IR treatments (There are UV ones as well). My point is if the setting on this are going to be the same as normal sunlight getting out in the fresh air for half an hour will do as much if not more – and it is free. It is definitely worth a try – don’t get me wrong.

  5. crosspatch says:

    I had no idea that bone was transparent in the IR spectrum. In fact, I still think I have no idea that bone is transparent in the IR.

  6. AJStrata says:


    Depends on how much IR you need to cook through. I had the same initial question, just did not post on it.

  7. garrettc says:

    Bone is not very transperent to IR. Consequently you would have to pack more power to make up for the attenuation. Off hand I do not know the attenuation rate. Nor do I know if the capillarries in the scalp couls stand that much irradiation.

    Other effects of intense light: Red light at 660 nm causes the replication rate of skin cells to increase, some types as much as 5x. In animal studies it more than doubles the healing rate of wounds and in human studies with males under prolonged exposure to high pressure, low oxygen tension (read military deep sea divers that stay in a diving bell for their rest periods) wound and bruise healing times are brought to normal rates a sea level. The effect may be due to higher efficiency in ATP creation in the mitochodria, perhaps through improvement of the electron capture/transfer of the cytochromes. Who knows, kind of crummy data presented.

    Of course for the ever-beautiful, the interest is in repairing sun damage, smoothing wrinkles and accelerating healing after plastic surgery.

    Blue light at 414 has an interesting anti bacteriological effect. It can be used to kill acne bacteria with good efficiency. I culture systems it efficiently kills anti-biotic-resistent Staph. One may speculate that it would help arrest skin infections by unknown organisms ( like the gross things that infest our wounded soldiers in desert climates). These observations have also been reported in respectable peer reviewed medical journals.

    In this case the mechanism is known. The blue light absorbs into porphoryns, best into bacterial types, creating a highly energetic state. When an oxygen molecule comes close the high energy electron jumps over and creats the very corossive and toxic Oxygen radical. Bacteria have no protective mechanhisms against oxygen radicals, and on top of that their DNA is unprotected, so the oxygen radical wrecks havoc.

    Still we are talking pretty high power relative to what you are normally exposed to in your living enviornment.

    Well so much for the edges of biology. I thinks some animal studies are called for before moving to humans.

  8. garrettc says:

    Speaking of edges of biology, a recent observation in a an online journal showed lasting and significant improvements in cognative ability in a group of fifteen Alzheimers patients. The purpose of the study was to treat painful arthritic conditions.

    One wonders how informed consent was given, but this study was in Britan, so who knows what that means in the NHS.

    I meant to mention above that experiements in medical uses of intense light therapy attract a lot of interest in Europe because of their very low cost relative to pharmaceutical approaches.

    Big surprise, eh?

  9. BarbaraS says:

    Not a fool, AJ, a sucker. And he was so right. Look at the global warming scare for instance. People are conned every day because they still believe there is a free lunch and it is possible to get something for nothing. People will buy anything if it sounds good to them.

    I worked in a nursing home for years and was around Alsheimer patients all the time. This disease is no joke and it is aggravating to see charlatons get rich on someone else’s misery.