Scientists are now testing new cutting edge technologies in the search for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. The hunt for a cure spans more than 40 years, with not even one success. Indeed, the road to a cure is pockmarked with failed drug trials, dashed hopes, and a dejected aging population staring into the abyss of their fatal illness. Billions of research dollars have been spent to find this elusive cure.
Now, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has decided make this research area a top priority. They opened the vault and are spending 2.4 billion dollars in 2019 to get scientists to think ‘outside the box’ and find cutting edge technologies. This funding priority is unmatched in scale since the agency’s war on cancer in the 1970’s.
New research approaches include everything from studying herpes as a possible cause of Alzheimer’s disease to using antidepressant drugs as treatment options. Here are some technologies scientists are now testing.
Cutting Edge Technologies: Light And Sound
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, are using light and sound to prompt brain cells to reduce amyloid plaques, which are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.
The objective to the formation of amyloid plaques which kills brain cells and destroys memory.
In this study, patients sit 3 to 5 feet in front of a device with flashing lights and sound for one hour daily for several weeks. The lights and sounds induce brain waves known as gamma oscillation. Previous research showed that gamma oscillation reduced amyloid plaque in mice.
Results to date show that the oscillation stops the growth of these plaques, and that memory improves.
The device is now licensed to Cognito Therapeutics, and larger clinical trials will begin very soon.
Cutting Edge Technologies: Eye Scans
Throughout history our eyes have been seen as a window into our health. For example accurate diagnostics for signs of hypertension, diabetic retinosis and a host of other conditions exist. Retinal imaging for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in now in a large-scale clinical trial.
Also, scientists at UC, San Diego are studying pupil response during cognitive tests as a measure of early-stage Alzheimer’s.
Evaluating Information Transmission
Researchers at Yale University are looking at the role of synapses or junctions between nerve cells through which messages are transmitted. PET scans measure synaptic health by measuring nerve cell transmissions. Transmission speed can deteriorate due to amyloid plaque build up.
The PET scan looks for a protein called synaptic vesicle glycoprotein 2A (SV2A), which changes as synapses degenerate. This measures the loss of brain cells across synapses.
Cutting Edge Technologies: Alzheimer’s Glucose and Insulin
Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center are studying whether intra-nasal insulin could be effective against Alzheimer’s.
The reason: Many Alzheimer’s patients suffer from insulin resistance. To date, the intra-nasal insulin tested over the past two years is successful in delaying symptoms. The NIH is now moving the testing into Phase 3 clinical trials.