Health Alert: Light to re-energize cells

NATIONAL - Chemotherapy causes a range of side effects - things like mucositis, a painful condition of the mouth. Though time heals mucositis, the pain can be unbearable. But a new treatment could speed up healing, and potentially prevent mucositis altogether.

Delaney Dikeman, 4, is recovering from severe aplastic anemia. Tricia Dikeman says, "They did a blood test and all of her cell counts were low."

Delaney needed a bone marrow transplant from her baby sister. It required the destruction of Delaney's immune system using chemo, leaving her susceptible to severe mouth sores.

Dr. Harry T. Whelan says, "Mucositis is one of the most painful side effects of cancer treatment and it essentially occurs in all patients with bone marrow transplant regimens to a fairly severe extent."

The Medical College of Wisconsin is testing near-infrared technology to see if it can prevent mucositis by reviving and re-energizing damaged cells. Dr. Whelan says, "The cells have been attacked by the treatment of the cancer, and now they're in an energy crisis. If the light is able to help them over that energy crisis so they can heal faster, we can actually heal the mucus membranes."

Hundreds of tiny LED chips emit near-infrared light. The light isn't hot, but it is powerful. Dr. Whelan says, "We're able to administer light that can be over ten times as bright as the sun, but just at the helpful wavelengths."

For Delaney's mom, the light treatment was a way to help her daughter and advance the science. "She had a couple of sores, but that was about it. And from my understanding, it can be a lot worse than what she had."

In addition to the national study on mucositis treatment, researchers are investigating whether the light therapy may treat other conditions where cells are facing an "energy crisis." That happens in Parkinson's disease, or healing broken bones.

Posted by Chantelle Janelle