Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicts about 5 million Americans and 30 million around the world today, slowly attacks patients’ cognitive functions and robs them of memories. Now, a personalized therapeutic program successfully reversed its symptoms, including memory loss, in patients in a small study.
Researchers from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging – using a 36-point personalized treatment involving dietary changes, exercise, brain stimulation and medications, to name a few – appeared to be the first to show that memory loss in these patients can be reversed and improvements in the condition can be sustained.
"All of these patients had either well-defined mild cognitive impairment (MCI), subjective cognitive impairment (SCI) or had been diagnosed with [Alzheimer’s] before beginning the program," reported study author and UCLA professor Dr. Dale Bredesen.
‘From Abnormal To Normal’
The 10 recruited individuals had mild cognitive impairment, subjective cognitive impairment, or Alzheimer’s at the beginning of the research. They were designed the 36-point program and received the therapy for five to 24 months.
Results from MRI and neuropsychological testing, said Bredesen, revealed that some of the 10 patients in the trial went “from abnormal to normal,” with all 10 exhibiting improvements in memory and cognition. Some were able to return to work and complete tasks that gradually became unlikely for them to do.
The authors deemed the patients' level of improvement unprecedented, but also acknowledged that it was a very small study needing to be replicated in larger numbers at different sites.
Ray Of Hope For Prevention
Diagnosing Alzheimer’s proves difficult while the patient is still alive, as doctors can only truly confirm it through a postmortem brain examination. Diagnosis is currently based on symptoms, which affect memory and other basic brain functions.
However, some patients have a higher genetic predisposition as they carry one or two copies of the APOE4 allele. Five of the participants, for instance, had a 10- to 12-fold greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s because they are carriers of it.
Their new discovery, said Bredesen, debunks old recommendations to avoid testing for APOE4 since there is nothing that can be done about it. A notable 65 percent of cases in the United States, for example, involve APOE4.
The program combining multiple treatment techniques was inspired by some recent headways in treating conditions such as heart disease, cancer and HIV, all of which require combination therapies.
Cognitive decline remains a primary concern among older adults, and the prospects appear to be bleak without addressing the possibility of Alzheimer’s. By 2050, an estimated 160 million people worldwide are expected to harbor this illness, including 13 million in America.
The findings were detailed in the journal Aging.
Photo: Patrick Doheny | Flickr