Pacemaker Prevents Memory Loss Due to Alzheimer's
A diseased brain- showing the effects of dementia. On right, a healthy brain with active neurons. dailymail.co.uk
The Daily Mail reported on Dec. 5 that a pacemaker was inserted into the brain of an Alzheimer's patient "in a bid to reduce memory loss." The device has already been used on thousands of patients with Parkinson's Disease to prevent cognitive decline. The first patient in the U.S. has undergone the delicate surgery to stave off the effects of dementia, which slowly rob one's mind of a life time of memories.
In 2010, the devices were implanted in six patients in Canada. The results were reassuring: patients with mild forms of the disorder showed sustained increase in glucose metabolism--an indicator that brain neurons are working--over a 13 month period. Typically, Alzheimer patients experience a decrease in glucose metabolism over the same period of time.
Some 40 patients are expected to receive the deep brain stimulation implant over the next year or so at Johns Hopkins and four other institutions in the U.S.
The need for Alzheimer treatments has been sharpened by increases in the number of Alzheimer patients, and the by the estimated increases over the next fifty years. By 2050, doctors expect the current number of patients to triple from 5.2 million to somewhere between 11 and 16 million unless an affective treatment is found.
Dr. Paul B. Rosenberg, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said that the device, which creates deep brain stimulation, "might prove to be a useful mechanism for treating Alzheimer’s disease, or it might help us develop less invasive treatments based on the same mechanism."
Even if the device doesn't cure the disease completely, it has proven useful in treating dementia, a significant sign of progress.