Monday May 27, 2019

US Researchers Finding Ways to Treat Dementia

Researchers are looking for ways to treat or prevent dementia, and a promising clinical trial is underway in the US

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alzheimer, dementia
Dementia is a rapidly growing public health problem throughout the world. Fifty million people suffer from dementia, and in the next 30 years, that number is expected to triple. Researchers are looking for ways to treat or prevent dementia. VOA

Dementia is a rapidly growing public health problem around the world. Fifty million people suffer from dementia, and in the next 30 years, that number is expected to triple. Researchers are looking for ways to treat or prevent dementia, and a promising clinical trial is underway in the U.S.

Dementia is not a normal part of aging, but age is a huge risk factor. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels help stave off dementia as we grow older

As people around the world live longer, health agencies and researchers are looking for ways to prevent, stop or treat dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, one of the most common types of dementia.

Promising clinical trial

David Shorr was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at 56.He is about to undergo a new procedure that could treat early stage Alzheimer’s. He is with his doctor, Vibhor Krishna, a neurosurgeon at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.

The procedure Shorr is about to have involves sound waves. Ultrasound waves target and open the blood-brain barrier — a protective layer that shields the brain from infections. But Krishna says the barrier also makes it hard to treat neurodegerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. “Opening the blood-brain barrier allows us to access more of the brain tissue and be able to increase the effectiveness or bioavailability of the therapeutics,” Krishna said.

Shorr and his wife, Kim, were willing to try any new treatment that might help with his dementia. Kim describes the couple’s reaction when they received a phone call inviting Shorr to participate in a clinical trial. “There’s this trial. Would you be interested?” she said, describing the call. “And without really knowing what it was, we said, Sure.’”

Ultrasound targets protein buildup

Shorr became one of 10 patients enrolled in the study. The trial tests MRI-guided imaging to target the part of the brain responsible for memory and cognition. Krishna explains that’s where Alzheimer’s patients have a buildup of toxic proteins called amyloid. “Higher deposition of amyloid goes hand in hand with loss of function in Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

dementia, alzheimer
FILE – Dr. William Burke goes over a PET brain scan, Aug. 14, 2018, at Banner Alzheimers Institute in Phoenix. VOA

Krishna says this procedure might allow a patient’s own immune system to clear some of the amyloid. In this procedure, ultrasound wave pulses cause microscopic bubbles to expand and contract in the brain. “The increase and decrease in size of these microbubbles mechanically opens the blood-brain barrier,” Krishna said. The patient is awake during the procedure.

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Study could help others

Opening the barrier may one day allow doctors to deliver medication straight to the site of the disease. Kim Shorr realizes her husband might not benefit from this treatment.

“We’re hopeful it can help him, but we also know maybe it will help somebody else,” she said. Shorr is glad to be part of a study that could help others who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, even if it doesn’t help him. (VOA)

Next Story

Virtual Reality can Help People With Dementia: Study

The sessions were monitored with feedback gathered from patients and their caregivers

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dementia
Painkillers may triple side effects risk in dementia patients. Pixabay

Virtual reality (VR) technology can enhance the quality of life for people with dementia by helping them to recall past memories, reduce aggression and improve interactions with caregivers, says a study.

The technology helped patients recall old memories by providing new stimuli difficult to achieve, due to ill health, or inaccessible within a secure environment, said the team from the University of Kent in the UK.

These memories not only provided positive mental stimulation for the patients but also helped their caregivers learn more about their lives before care, thereby improving their social interaction.

“VR can clearly have positive benefits for patients with dementia, their families and caregivers. It provides a richer and more satisfying quality of life than is otherwise available, with many positive outcomes,” said Jim Ang, Professor at the University of Kent.

For the study, the researchers picked eight patients aged between 41 and 88 who are living with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia. Pixabay
1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia. Pixabay

Each patient used a VR headset to ‘visit’ one of five virtual environments of a cathedral, a forest, a sandy beach, a rocky beach and a countryside scene.

The sessions were monitored with feedback gathered from patients and their caregivers.

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The patients also demonstrated their own choices during the experiment, with some keen to explore different VEs within a session, while others explored the same environment repeatedly.

“With further research it will be possible to evaluate the elements of virtual environments that benefit patients and use VR even more effectively,” Jim Ang added. (IANS)