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Published on: October 4, 2014
by Lizzie Parry for The Daily Mail:
Memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients has been reversed for the first time, scientists say.
A small study of 10 patients found nine showed improvements in their memories within three to six months of treatment.
The findings, from the University of California, Los Angeles, are the first to suggest that memory loss in patients can be reversed.
Six patients taking part had stopped working, or been struggling with their jobs at the time they joined the study.
All have since been able to return to their jobs or continue working, with improved performance.
The patients all suffered memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
One, who had been diagnosed with late stage Alzheimer’s did not improve.
Dr Dale Bredesen, of the university’s Centre for Alzheimer’s Disease Research, hopes the new study could pave the way for the first effective treatment for the disease, since it was first described more than 100 years ago.
The treatment involved a complex, 36-point therapeutic programme, combining comprehensive diet changes, brain stimulation, exercise, sleep optimisation, specific drugs and vitamins, and other steps affecting brain chemistry.
Dr Bredesen said the findings are ‘very encouraging’, but added the results are anecdotal, and a more extensive, controlled clinical trial is needed.
No single drug has been found to stop or even slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, and drugs have only had modest effects of symptoms.
He said: ‘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.’
While other chronic illnesses including cardiovascular disease, cancer and HIV have been improved through the use of combination therapies, they have not been explored for Alzheimer’s and other memory disorders until now.
‘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,’ Dr Bredesen said.
‘The existing Alzheimer’s drugs affect a single target, but Alzheimer’s disease is more complex, he added.
‘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 his approach is personalised, tailored to each individual patient.
It is based on extensive testing to help determine the best therapies for each patient’s brain.
But he admitted there are some limitations to the study.
It is complex and the burden falls on patients and caregivers to follow it.
In this study, no patients were able to stick to the entire protocol.
Their most common complaints were the diet and lifestyle changes, and having to take multiple pills each day.
Dr Bredesen added: ‘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.’
He said while the findings suggest memory loss can be reversed and improvements sustained, the results need to be replicated.
The findings are published in the current online edition of the journal Aging.
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