The trial of an electromagnetic cap that sends waves into the brain has had promising results. The device has shown it’s possible to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in eight patients with mild or moderate forms of the condition.
Experimental transcranial electromagnetic treatment (TEMT) involves wearing a skullcap and allowing it to break down the buildup of proteins in the brain. They stop nerve cells from functioning properly, resulting in memory loss and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
The small trial was carried out by NeuroEM Therapeutics and seven out of the eight participants showed a ‘highly significant improvement’ in tests. They measured memory, language, attention, behaviour and mood.
Despite scientists working on Alzheimer’s treatments all over the world, there has so far been no cure found. What’s more, reversing memory loss in dementia patients has also proven difficult, with most drugs on the market only delaying symptoms if a diagnosis is made early enough.
Scientists now hope that the promising results from this small study could pave the way for a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research. NeuroEM Therapeutics have extended the trial beyond the initial phase to 17 months, with participants saying they want to continue.
Each of the individuals taking part in the study wore the TEMT headset twice a day for hour-long sessions. It works by targeting clumps of amyloid-beta and tau proteins in the brain, which are considered to be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.
The theory is that once these clumps have been cleared from the organ, the nerve cells they were blocking can start to function again fully. While the results of the study were positive, it’s not yet known to what extent the technique will be able to reverse Alzheimer’s on a larger scale.
Each participant in the trial was measured using the ADAS-cog scale from zero to 70, with the higher the number the worse their Alzheimer’s. After two months of TEMT treatment, seven of the patients had improved by at least four points on the scale, which qualifies as being clinically significant.
Since Alzheimer’s patients can usually expect to decline at a rate of around four points a year on the ADAS-cog scale, this is a marked difference. The participants also performed better in word recall tests after the treatment than before, with one showing a 50 per cent improvement.
Dr Gary Arendash, chief executive officer at NeuroEm Therapeutics, said: “We were particularly surprised that this highly significant improvement in the ADAS-cog was maintained even two weeks after treatment was completed. The most likely explanation for continued benefit after cessation of treatment is that the Alzheimer's disease process itself was being affected.
“Perhaps the best indication that the two months of treatment was having a clinically-important effect on the AD patients in this study is that none of the patients wanted to return their head device after the study was completed.”
NHS estimates suggest that one in six people over the age of 80 in the UK are affected by Alzheimer’s, as well as one in 14 over-65s. It’s the most common form of dementia and requires a diagnosis as early as possible in order to slow down the effects and enable the individual to live an independent life for longer.