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Noninvasive Laser Therapy for Stroke Treatment Could Help Avoid Surgical Removal of Blood Clot

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 20 Jun 2024
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Image: Noninvasive laser therapy could be an effective new treatment for stroke patients (Photo courtesy of Stroke DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.123.045358)
Image: Noninvasive laser therapy could be an effective new treatment for stroke patients (Photo courtesy of Stroke DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.123.045358)

Individuals suffering from stroke currently have limited treatment options, generally involving a combination of intravenous thrombolysis and endovascular thrombectomy—methods involving the injection of clot-busting drugs and the mechanical removal of blood clots. However, these treatments are only effective within a specific timeframe and are suitable for only a subset of patients. Now, new research has revealed the potential for non-invasive light treatment for stroke utilizing lasers.

The approach targets endothelial cells, which line the blood vessels and play a pivotal role in the onset of stroke due to their dysfunction, marked by reduced production of nitric oxide (NO). NO is essential for keeping blood vessels open to ensure free blood flow. Building on prior findings that laser therapy can enhance NO production in these cells, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA, USA) explored the impact of laser therapy in a mouse stroke model.

Their findings indicate that applying low-power, invisible laser light to the head can significantly enhance brain blood flow and reduce stroke-related damage. The mechanism appears to involve laser treatment boosting NO production, which in turn improves blood vessel function in the brain. Given the established safety record of laser treatments for other medical conditions, there is optimism about the feasibility of testing this method in human trials soon. Additionally, laser therapy holds promise for treating a variety of other cardiovascular diseases linked to NO deficiencies.

“Unlike other approaches using chemicals, which can be toxic to our bodies, laser light is a physical parameter. It does not stay in the body after the therapy and will have little chance of causing side effects,” said co-senior author Satoshi Kashiwagi, MD, PhD, an investigator in the Department of Radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital. “We discovered a new way to effectively treat stroke using laser light, a modality that is already widely used in the clinic for procedures such as Lasik eye surgery and tattoo removal, and has a well-known safety profile. Thus, we expect that we could advance this technology to clinical trials relatively soon. Such technology has the potential to replace the current standard therapy using chemicals, which may cause side effects.”

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