For the first time, it was documented, by positron emission tomography (PET) scans, that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), a medical treatment based on 100% pure oxygen carried out in a pressurized chamber, produced improvements in brain metabolism of a person with Alzheimer’s. That means that the therapy stopped the progression of the disease and even managed to reverse it temporarily.
The study, which was conducted on a 58-year-old woman who had an accelerated case of the disease, proved how the HBOT allowed the patient to recover impaired functions. Since she relapsed two months later, she returned to treatment. Her response opened hope for long-term treatment that reduces Alzheimer’s symptoms through HBOT and medication.
Researchers Paul Harch, of the Louisiana State University School of Medicine (LSU) in New Orleans, and Edward Fogarty, a radiology head at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine, narrated the case of a patient who had already five years of rapid cognitive decline, with a proven Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The woman received a total of 40 sessions of HBOT at a pressure of 1.15 atm, 50 minutes each, for 66 days.
“After 21 sessions, the patient showed an increase in energy and a higher level of activity, improved mind and ability to perform daily activities and also to complete the words crossed”, reported the news page of the University of Southern States. United, LSU Health.
“After 40 sessions, she showed an increase in memory and concentration, sleep, conversation, appetite and the ability to use a computer, less anguish, disorientation, frustration, and tremors. Motor speed also improved”.
When they compared the images of the PET one month after the end of the HBOT with the previous studies, there were found visible changes in cerebral metabolism.
“We demonstrated the greatest improvement in brain metabolism of all therapies for Alzheimer’s disease,” told Harch to Medical Press. “In this patient, HBOT could be the first treatment that not only stops but temporarily reverses the progress of the disease”.
The work included 3D images of the PET that reconstruct the surface of the woman’s brain, where changes can be seen. “PET is used in the world as a biomarker in oncology and cardiology to evaluate the responses to treatments”, said Fogarty on the LSU page. “Now we have an irrefutable biomarking system that shows that this intervention has potential where previously there was no real hope of recovery from dementia.”
Two months after the end of the therapy, the patient suffered the return of the symptoms. During the next 20 months, the doctors resubmitted her to HBOT (a total of 96 sessions), adding supplemental oxygen and medications. “Our results suggest the possibility of treating Alzheimer’s in the long term, with HBOT and pharmacotherapy,” concluded Harch.
Hyperbaric medicine treats burns, injuries and various pathologies, many related to inflammation. By entering a chamber where you breathe pure oxygen at a pressure that can reach three times more than the normal pressure, a person increases the partial pressure of the arterial blood gas more than 20 times. That sets in motion metabolic pathways that may be depressed for different reasons.
“The HBOT points to the pathological processes of Alzheimer’s disease – explained the LSU article on this study – by affecting microcirculation, mitochondrial dysfunction and myogenesis, reducing the impact of amyloids and phosphorylation of tau protein, controlling oxidative stress and reducing inflammation”.
Although the first study on the use of HBOT in the treatment of Alzheimer’s dates back to 2001, this is the first study that presents a complete documented case. And the patient is the first of a series of 11 who were treated with this technique and manifested symptomatic improvements, the researchers announced.
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