Project no. 414
Kukuii: Light Therapy Against Alzheimer’s
S. Guzzetti1, M. S. Carstensen2, and N. Hagelund2
1DTU Management Engineering, Technical University of Denmark
2DTU Fotonik, Technical University of Denmark
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that accounts for
approximately the 60% of the cases of dementia. There are 47 million people suffering form
AD worldwide, 17 in EU and US alone. The number of patients is expected to double every
20 years. indeed, due to the increase in life expectancy much more people will contract the
disease. This is one of the biggest burden to European governments, consisting in a
remarkable proportion of the health expenditure, and to health insurances in the US, where
it kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. The cost for dementia in
Europe is €177.2 billion in total. While in the US Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia
cost $259 billion.
Furthermore, an effective cure for AD does not exists, since both drug and non-drug
treatment are used to treat cognitive and behavioral symptoms and they are just meant to
slow the illness progression. As the disease advances patients experience low quality of life,
due to memory loss, depression, decreased independence, mood changes, altered sleep
pattern and less appetite. They have difficulties in interacting with other people, worsening
the interactions with relatives and caregivers. AD is also an economical and emotional
burden for families.
The idea originates from state-of-the-art medical research: MIT’s neuroscientist Li-Huei Tsai
published an academic paper titled “Gamma frequency entrainment attenuates amyloid load
and modifies microglia”. It creates new opportunities for treating AD through the use of
flickering light at 40 Hz. The flickering is transmitted to the visual cortex through the retina
and it would restore the natural gamma rhythm in the brain. This leads to an attenuation of
the levels of amyloid beta in the brain and it empowers the brain’s immune cells, microglia.
Our team has already built multiple prototypes. The last version has been produced in 20
samples for validation purposes. The prototypes are built with our patent pending
technology, which is shared between DTU and UC Berkeley. In addition, the technology also
permitted to overcome the problem of the light pulsations, which make the light unbearable
to sight. Our light looks like a screen emitting 4000K white light.
After having received 500.000 DKK from DTU’s Proof of Concept fund and the 25.000 DKK
MicroGrant from the Danish Foundation for Entrepreneurship, the set up of experiments for
medical validation has started. Indeed, medical trials have been planned for June 2018 at
Rigshospitalet in collaboration with UC Berkeley and Københavns Universitet.