Results of a small study by the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and the UCLA Easton Laboratories for Neurodegenerative Disease Research have found that a comprehensive, personalized therapeutic program can lead to reversal of memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients.
Quantitative MR and neuropsychological testing showed unprecedented improvements in 10 patients with early Alzheimer’s disease or its precursors. Although it is a small trial it is the first to objectively show memory loss can be reversed and improvements sustained.
For the study — which was featured in the journal Aging — patients were each given a complex, 36-point therapeutic personalized program that involved comprehensive changes in diet, brain stimulation, exercise, optimization of sleep, specific pharmaceuticals and vitamins.
“All of these patients had either well-defined mild cognitive impairment, subjective cognitive impairment, or had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease before beginning the program,” said Dr. Dale Bredesen, author of the study and a professor at the Buck Institute and UCLA. “Follow-up testing showed some of the patients going from abnormal to normal.”
In all ten cases there were improvements in both memory and cognitive function. In some cases, the participants were able to go back to work and complete tasks that had become impossible for them to do as their condition worsened.
All but one of the patients was at genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease, carrying at least one copy of the APOE4 allele. Doctors have previously suggested not doing genetic testing for the disease because nothing could be done for it. But Bredesen said the study shows it makes sense to get testing to determine patients' genetic status “as early as possible so they go on prevention.”
Sixty-five percent of Alzheimer’s cases in the United States involve APOE4, with seven million people carrying two copies of the ApoE4 allele, which increases their risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
While encouraged by the results of the study, Bredesen acknowledged that it is a small sampling and more research needs to be done.
“The magnitude of improvement in these ten patients is unprecedented, providing additional objective evidence that this programmatic approach to cognitive decline is highly effective,” he stated. “Even though we see the far-reaching implications of this success, we also realize that this is a very small study that needs to be replicated in larger numbers at various sites.”
Still, the results of the Buck Institute/UCLA study were striking in how the comprehensive protocol positively impacted the patients. One man was a 69-year-old entrepreneur who had 11 years of progressive memory loss. He was going to shut down his business when the improvements began to be noticeable.
Testing after he was on the protocol for 22 months found he was able to remember his schedule, faces and also to add columns of numbers in his head. He is now expanding his business instead of closing it.
Bredesen said he hopes to eventually transform the perception that Alzheimer’s is a death sentence to the reality that it is a preventable and reversible condition.