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In 2015, a woman with dementia was sitting in hospice care, wheelchair-bound and largely non-communicative. As part of a research project, she was given repeated computed tomography (CT) scans of her brain.
The effect of this seemingly harmless treatment was rather astonishing, and it has led to more research exploring the effect of low dose ionizing radiation on neurodegenerative conditions.
In today’s post, we will discuss what low dose ionizing radiation is, what research has been conducted thus far, and what could be happening in the brain to explain the effect.
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During the lunch break of a recent research conference and desiring some ‘alone time’, I approached a table toward the back of the conference center.
There was only one other inhabitant of this oasis of solitude and after asking if they minded if I sat there (“Please” they gestured), I sat down. A moment or two later, a polite conversation was started. It was innocent enough (“Enjoying the conference?“) but this quickly shifted to specifics (Me asking “So what area of the research is of most interest to you?“).
And this was where the rabbit hole began.
You see, my table companion explained that they had trained as a radiologist – this is a group of doctors that specialise in diagnosing and treating injuries/diseases using medical imaging.
And upon being told their occupation, I asked if they were interested in the research exploring diagnostic imaging for Parkinson’s.
Their answer was: “Well, yes, but I’m more interested in using the imaging therapeutically“.
To which, my facial expression must have shifted towards something like:
My table companion was amused by the expression on my face and added that they lived locally and they were curious about the research being done on Parkinson’s. But more specifically, they were interested to know if anyone was investigating low-dose ionizing radiation as a potential therapeutic treatment.
My facial confusion must have become somewhat more exaggerated at that point, and so they gave me the background history and context to their reason for interest.
It was a fascinating story.
What did they say?