Alzheimer’s zapped: Scientists launch landmark trial to treat dementia by sending electric currents deep into the brain
- Imperial College London and UK Dementia Research Institute got a $1.5m grant
- It came from US philanthropists, including Bill Gates, to trial the new technology
- Researchers chose 24 patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s to have the therapy
- After dozens of failed trials for dementia drugs, experts have high hopes for trial
Neurologists are to start treating Alzheimer’s patients by sending electrical currents deep into their brain.
A team at Imperial College London and the UK Dementia Research Institute have been given a $1.5million (£1.14million) grant by US philanthropists, including Bill Gates, to trial the technology.
Researchers have selected 24 patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s to undergo the therapy, which will involve two weeks of daily hour-long sessions.
After dozens of failed trials for dementia drugs, experts have high hopes for this new method.
The technology – called temporal interference brain stimulation – involves applying electrodes to the scalp.
The electrodes then send two harmless high-frequency beams into the brain.
These beams are of slightly different frequencies – 2,000 Hz and 2,005 Hz – and when they cross they create a third current, a low-frequency wave of 5 Hz.
And it is this new wave which researchers hope will make all the difference.
It will be triggered in the hippocampus – an area deep in the brain responsible for forming new memories. This will hopefully revive the area’s mitochondria, the energy source in every cell, which become damaged by Alzheimer’s.
The two original beams are at too high a frequency to interfere with the healthy brain tissue through which they pass.
But the new wave will have the same frequency at which brain cells fire – allowing it to spark diseased neurones back into action.
Tests on healthy volunteers shows the technique increases blood flow to the brain and results in improved results in facial-recognition tests. But the new trial, which will start in January, will be the first time patients with Alzheimer’s undergo the treatment.
A team at Imperial College London and the UK Dementia Research Institute have been given a $1.5million (£1.14million) grant by US philanthropists, including Bill Gates (pictured), to trial the technology
Researcher Dr Nir Grossman said: ‘There is more and more evidence that mitochondrial dysfunction plays an important role in Alzheimer’s disease.
‘This is an important milestone for us, concluding years of work on a breakthrough technological development.’
Some 850,000 people in the UK suffer with dementia, of whom 500,000 have the Alzheimer’s form of the disease.
The trial is one of 16 given grants by the $60million (£46million) Part the Cloud programme – a scheme funded by philanthropists Bill Gates and Mikey Hoag, and the US Alzheimer’s Association.
Microsoft billionaire Mr Gates has spoken of witnessing the effects of the disease first-hand and said finding a treatment ‘needs increased and continued research investments’.