DALLAS, Texas (Ivanhoe Newswire) – More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, that number is projected to be 13 million. Although there are several drugs to treat the symptoms, there’s only one FDA-approved medication to slow the progression. Now, there’s a new treatment that’s not a drug, sparking discussion that could slow or halt the progression of this devastating disease.
One in three seniors die with Alzheimer’s disease.
There’s no cure but researchers are hoping that electricity may help stop it at the earliest stages.
“By increasing the flow of information, in that track, we might improve the ability of a person to retain new information,” explains UT Health San Antonio neurologist and psychiatrist, Dr. Gabriel de Erausquin.
Researchers are targeting the fornix – a part of the brain responsible for memory – with deep brain stimulation, sending electrical impulses to targeted areas.
UT Health San Antonio neurosurgeon, Dr. Alexander Papanastassiou says, “The electrodes go down into the brain near the fornix. Then, you tunnel the wires underneath the skin, behind the ear and underneath the skin down the neck, down to the chest wall. And then, we have a little battery pack there. It’s a lot like a pacemaker.”
“The patient is awake, and we are asking them questions,” Dr. de Erausquin mentions.
A San Antonio woman in her 70s was one of the first in the world to receive DBS. On the operating table, she suddenly started talking about a long-lost memory.
Dr. de Erausquin recalls, “She was suddenly flattered by a memory of her sister and her playing on the beach.”
During two years of stimulation, researchers proved DBS is safe for Alzheimer’s patients and the disease did not progress in most of the patients.
“Twenty-four months without worsening is quite good. It’s better than anything we have right now,” Dr. de Erausquin emphasizes.
There are 27 sites worldwide testing DBS for treating Alzheimer’s patients. Eighteen are in the U.S. The study doesn’t aim to reverse the disease progression, that’s why it’s important to do this treatment in the early stages of the disease. DBS is currently used to treat patients with Parkinson’s, seizures, and depression.
Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer, Editor.
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