Alzheimer’s disease causes patients to have difficulty recalling memories and performing tasks. Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, which means it gets worse over time. Once Alzheimer’s disease begins, patients either stay the same or get worse. Most people notice symptoms getting worse over a period of 10 years. However, some people with Alzheimer’s disease will get worse very rapidly, over the course of a few years.
Because Alzheimer’s disease is discussed frequently in popular media, many people know that part of the disease process is the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain, namely beta-amyloid plaques and tau neurofibrillary tangles. One less well-known effect of Alzheimer’s disease is that it interferes with blood flow in the brain. This decreased blood flow is so common, in fact, that doctors can detect low brain activity using positron emission tomography (PET), which can help make the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Between 2002 and 2012, researchers tested 244 treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, and only one medication was approved by the FDA. After all this time, there is still no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, the drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease are mostly ineffective. At best, they slow the progression of the disease for several months to a few years.
This lack of success has prompted several research groups to focus on other treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. One experimental treatment for Alzheimer’s disease is hyperbaric oxygen therapy. In hyperbaric oxygen therapy, patients rest in a specialized chamber while they experience oxygen at a slightly higher pressure than they would in the outside world.
Researchers wanted to determine whether hyperbaric oxygen therapy could improve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, but also whether they could see those brain changes using PET. To do this, Drs. Harch and Fogarty enrolled a woman with rapidly deteriorating Alzheimer’s disease in their clinical study. She was exhibiting the characteristic signs of Alzheimer’s disease and reduced brain activity and blood flow in her brain. They treated her with a series of hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments (1.15 atmospheres, 40 minutes, 5 days per week over 66 days).
After 21 treatments, the woman had increased energy, her mood was better, she was better able to perform activities of daily living, and she was actually performing crossword puzzles. After 40 hyperbaric oxygen treatments, she had better memory and concentration, she was sleeping better, her appetite had improved, she was able to hold conversations and able to use a computer.
Interestingly, when the researchers performed follow-up PET study after hyperbaric oxygen therapy, blood flow and brain activity improved as much as 38% compared to the PET study before treatment.
Additional clinical studies with larger groups of Alzheimer’s disease patients are needed to determine how effective hyperbaric oxygen therapy is, what pressure to use, and how many treatments are needed, etc. Nonetheless, the impressive changes reported in this case study are promising, and should spark additional clinical research.
Contact a Stemedix Care Coordinator for more information on Regenerative Medince Therapy combined with Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Reference: Harch et al. (2019). Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for Alzheimer’s dementia with positron emission tomography imaging: a case report. Medical Gas Research. 2019 Jan 9;8(4):181-184.