The Search for Successful Alzheimer's Treatments Moves in New Direction

Researchers Look Beyond Drugs to Give New Hope

Yahoo Contributor Network

Alzheimer's disease is the most frequently seen form of dementia that robs those with the illness of not only their short-term memories, but as the disease advances it leads to personality changes and loss of ability to function in activities of daily living. As the sixth-highest cause of death in the United States , Alzheimer's disease has eluded medical science from thus far finding a truly successful treatment for the disease. Researchers in America and worldwide continue to work towards such a treatment and one team in particular is moving in a new direction to do so.

Brain Pacemakers May Hold the Answer

Researchers in the United States have begun clinical research in a non-drug approach to successful treatment of Alzheimer's disease. The research aims to determine whether implantation of an electrical stimulating device -- a brain pacemaker -- may hold the answer to slowing or preventing progression of the terminal illness.

As explained by the Associated Press , the research, still in its early stages, plans to implant the brain pacemakers into a few dozen people diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer's disease at a few hospitals around the nation.

One of the first such devices was implanted in a 57-year-old woman in the early stages of the illness. Researchers at Ohio State University explained to her that the pacemaker in her brain would constantly send electrical impulses to the areas of the brain controlling thinking and memory, in the hope that such stimulation will keep the cells in those areas functioning longer in a healthy manner.

Electrical Stimulation in Use for Movement Disorders

Deep brain stimulation, DBS, the appropriate term for brain pacemakers, is a technique already in use for the treatment of Parkinson's disease and other movement disorders in up to 100,000 people worldwide. DBS is being used successfully for the treatment of chronic back pain , an experimental treatment for the reduction of seizures in epilepsy and a treatment for Tourette syndrome .

DBS isn't without some risks: Holes must be drilled in the skull for the insertion of electrodes into appropriate areas of the brain. Those who will be involved in the early stages of research into the use of DBS to treat Alzheimer's disease will be monitored at regular intervals for two years after implantation of the device.

Deep Brain Stimulation for the Treatment of Alzheimer's Disease

Ohio State University is overseeing the research into the treatment of Alzheimer's disease with electrical stimulation. ClinicalTrials.gov shows that researchers are still recruiting for participants in this study. Eligible participants will be age 45 years through 85 years of age of either sex and with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. More information, including how to contact researchers for possible study participation, can be found at the site.