Until recently, it was thought that memory and cognitive abilities lost due to Alzheimer's disease was permanent and irreversible, but a new treatment, administered to 10 patients over the course of five to 24 months, gives us hope that memory in fact can be repaired. This trial was so successful that patients were able to return to work.
A team of researchers working at the University of California, Los Angeles showed patients regaining their normal cognitive functions, such as multi-lingual abilities and increased brain matter. All 10 of the patients in this small trial were selected because they exhibited a decline in cognitive ability due to increased age.
The treatment used by UCLA researchers and the Buck Institute for Research and Ageing is called Metabolic Enhancement for Neurodegeneration (MEND), and consists of both lifestyle and pharmaceutical drugs. Combined and tailored for each patient, the results are astoundingly positive.
While each patient came to this clinical trial with their own unique set of circumstances, one thing remained consistent—each patient was a carrier of the APOE4 allele, which means that they were all at risk for Alzheimer's disease. APOE4 appears in 65 percent of all Alzheimer's cases in the world.
This trial has debunked the old thought that patients shouldn't be tested for APOE4. Current thinking suggests that getting tested is important because with testing, patients can now receive early treatment.
Among some of the patients in this trial included a 66-year-old man with a hippocampal volume reduced to the 17th percentile, a 69-yearold entrepreneur preparing to close his business due to extensive memory loss, and another patient who was barely to shop for groceries on her own. All of these patients showed considerable cognitive improvement after receiving treatment. In fact, all 10 patients undergoing treatment in this trial had regained their normal cognitive abilities.
Does this sound too good to be true? Well, there are some serious limitations. The first is that the treatments must be on-going and the researchers are unsure how long they must go on. Second, researchers also do not know if these positive gains are permanent because so far, the patients have only been monitored for four years. Third, this trial consisted of only a small 10-person sample. However, even with all of these limitations in mind, the goal is for researchers to continue this treatment on an increasingly large number of patients in the hopes that it can be replicated, the treatment results can be better understand, and that it can also continue to help those in need of cognitive repair.