Imagine if there was a non-invasive, benign treatment to help people with a variety of neurological conditions, from strokes to Parkinson's disease. Could the solution be tiny beams of a seemingly innocuous red light called infrared light therapy?
"Essentially you're dealing with infrared and you're dealing with low level laser light," said Neurologist Dr. Nicholas Suite.
Some devices have been FDA cleared for hair growth and pain but their use is branching out. Studies have shown that Near Infrared Laser Therapy, or NILT, can affect cell biology. It offers hope to people who've suffered from stroke, traumatic brain injury and chronic neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
"Any type of issue like that where there's a problem with the functioning of the cells you can apply a certain dose of laser energy and it can pass through the skull, pass through the skin and you can get benefit delivered to the actual tissues below," said Suite.
While a study by a Boston University Researcher found notable benefit, Suite says there's a key caveat: there were a limited number of study participants.
"When you're dealing with a number of 30 subjects or 10 subjects of 15 subjects that doesn't carry enough weight to really convince the FDA for example that this type of therapy is beneficial," he said.
Some doctors believe that in medical situations like stroke or coma where there are very limited ways to help, studies like these should continue to be fast-tracked so that physicians can offer more hope to their most difficult patients.