Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible and progressive brain disorder that is considered the most common cause of dementia in adults. There are millions of new cases of dementia reported each year, and there will likely only be more as the population continues to age.
Is it possible that hyperbaric oxygen therapy for dementia can reverse some of the hallmarks of the disease?
A new study that has just come out of Tel Aviv University (TAU) shows that there is some incredible potential here.
The team of investigators at TAU was able to use HBOT to restore brain trauma. This is notable and promising because it is the first time that a non-drug therapy has been shown to effectively prevent the core biological processes that are believed to be responsible for the development of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
What are the Mechanisms Behind HBOT Dementia Treatments?
While the traditional treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia revolve around pharmaceutical solutions and providing a safer environment for the patient, the simple fact is that they have had limited therapeutic benefits and really can’t do much to hinder the progression of the disease.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, on the other hand, works by delivering 100% oxygen to places in the body that may be starved of it.
Why does this matter?
Because some studies have suggested that hypoxia – an oxygen deficiency – could be an important environmental factor that might contribute to the progression or development of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. HBOT addresses this directly by sending pure oxygen where it is needed most.
On top of that, HBOT may have an impact on some of the pathological processes of dementia because it has been shown to impact microcirculation, mitochondrial disfunction, and more. We have also seen that hyperbaric therapy is capable contributing to the repair of damaged brain tissue and stimulating the growth of blood vessels and nerve cells in the brain.
How Was the Study Conducted?
The TAU study began by looking at animal models, and they were quickly able to show – by examining the brain tissues – that certain HBOT protocols could improve the vascular functioning and create new blood vessels.
It also prevented deposits of new amyloid plaques (groups of misfolded proteins that form in between nerve cells) on the brain cells and even removed some existing plaque deposits.
This was an important discovery because these types of proteins in the brain have been connected to degenerative conditions (like Alzheimer’s disease).
After this first stage of research, the study moved on to look at the effects of HBOT treatments for people who were over 65 years of age and experiencing some type of cognitive decline (especially if they displayed memory loss, since that is normally an indicator of oncoming Alzheimer’s and dementia).
Patients received 60 HBOT sessions over 3 months and then the effects were evaluated with a high-resolution perfusion MRI.
The results indicated that blood flow increased 16% to 23%, significant memory improvements were observed, and attention and information processing speed also seemed to increase.
Why These Findings are So Important
Professor Ashery, one of the lead scientists working on this study, said: “By studying and treating Alzheimer’s disease in the animal model, we can implement our findings to include humans as well. After a series of hyperbaric treatments, elderly patients who were already suffering from memory loss showed an improvement of blood flow to the brain, as well as a real improvement in cognitive performance. Consequently, we succeeded in demonstrating the latent potential of hyperbaric medicine for treatment of neurologic conditions that originate from a deficiency of oxygen reaching the cells.”
Dr. Ronit Shapira, another professor working on the study added: “[This study] raises the hope that we will now be able to fight one of the greatest challenges to the western world. According to our findings, hyperbaric therapy given at a young age is likely to prevent this severe disease entirely.”
There is still a lot of research to be done, but the results of this research suggests that by treating the root problems of cognitive deterioration that comes with age, it is more likely that it can be prevented in the future.
HBOT has a lot of potential for treating people who are suffering from these neurological conditions. The sooner a patient begins receiving treatment, the more likely they are to experience positive results. If you’d like to learn more, be sure to contact us and discuss these new treatments with our specialists.