Individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s had their memory loss reversed in a breakthrough discovery, says UCLA doctors in conjunction with the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. The study and results, though cautioned to be in an infant stage, show promising headway in the battle against the debilitating neurological disease.
Writes MedicalXpress.com on Oct. 2: “Since its first description over 100 years ago, Alzheimer’s disease has been without effective treatment. That may finally be about to change: in the first, small study of a novel, personalized and comprehensive program to reverse memory loss, nine of 10 participants displayed subjective or objective improvement in their memories beginning within 3-to-6 months after the program’s start.”
The findings, released by the University of California, Los Angeles, are the first of their kind that show dementia and memory loss can not only be potentially halted, but reversed to the point where the patients are able to rejoin the workforce and fully recognize friends and family.
Six patients took part in the study. According to Neuroscience News, they included a patient with “two years of progressive memory loss” who was “considering quitting her job, which involved analyzing data and writing reports; she got disoriented driving, and mixed up the names of her pets.” Another volunteer patient “kept forgetting once familiar faces at work, forgot his gym locker combination, and had to have his assistants constantly remind him of his work schedule.”
A third patient’s memory had debilitated to the point where she “used an iPad to record everything, then forgot her password. Her children noticed she commonly lost her train of thought in mid-sentence, and often asked them if they had carried out the tasks that she mistakenly thought she had asked them to do.”
Other patients taking part in the study had similar lapses of memory or severe bouts of forgetfulness. Incredibly, all except one have since returned to their jobs; some have reported even improved performance overall in their thinking and ability to retain information. One individual, described as having late-stage Alzheimer’s, did not improve.
The trial program was titled MEND, an acronym for Metabolic Enhancement for NeuroDegeneration. The most surprising part? The treatment is not a drug company creation, but rather a formula of diet, exercise and mental stimulation.
According to the Daily Mail, the “treatment involved a complex, 36-point therapeutic program, combining comprehensive diet changes, brain stimulation, exercise, sleep optimization, specific drugs and vitamins, and other steps affecting brain chemistry.”
Current drugs prescribed to treat or slow Alzheimer’s have had only modest impact. Dr. Dale Bredesen, Director of the Easton Center at UCLA and a professor at the Buck Institute, called the findings “very encouraging,” but cautioned that a larger, controlled clinical trial is needed.
“In the past decade alone, hundreds of clinical trials have been conducted for Alzheimer’s, without success, at an aggregate cost of over $1 billion,” Bredesen said, adding that combination therapies have been used with some success to battle other diseases such as cancer and HIV.
“That suggested that a broader-based therapeutic approach, rather than a single drug that aims at a single target, may be feasible and potentially more effective for the treatment of cognitive decline due to Alzheimer’s,” Bredesen said.
“Imagine having a roof with 36 holes in it, and your drug patched one hole very well,” he said. “The drug may have worked, and a single hole may have been fixed, but you still have 35 other leaks, and so the underlying process may not be affected much.”
Dr. Bredesen said that unlike most drugs, the 36-point regimen had no ill side effects. In fact, the opposite proved true. “It is noteworthy that the major side effects of this therapeutic system are improved health and an improved body mass index, a stark contrast to the side effects of many drugs.”
The “Alzheimer’s reversed” abstract and full findings can be read here, in the online medical journal Aging.