Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease and a type of dementia. Dementia is an umbrella term that is used for conditions that are caused by diseases or brain injuries that have a negative effect on a person’s memory, behavior, and thinking. Alzheimer’s is known to interfere with your day to day living, and there is no cure for it.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, but some treatments can help slow down the disease’s progression. Scientists and doctors have been working for years to develop a treatment that could stop the progression of Alzheimer’s and even reverse the damage caused to memory and cognitive capabilities. One such potential therapy that has become popular in recent times is an electromagnetic cap. But can an electromagnetic cap treat Alzheimer’s disease? Let us take a look.
Can Electromagnetic Fields Help Treat Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia and affects a person’s memory, cognitive function, and behavior.(1,2) According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease accounts for nearly 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases.(3) Alzheimer’s disease causes your brain cells to degenerate or ‘waste away.’ Being the most common cause of dementia, Alzheimer’s causes a continuous decline in the behavioral, thinking, and social skills of a person. This not only disrupts a person’s thinking ability but also interferes with their ability to function independently.(4,5)
Most people who have Alzheimer’s are usually given a diagnosis after the age of 65 years.(6) If Alzheimer’s is diagnosed before you have reached 60 or 65 years of age, then it is known as the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.(7) As the disease progresses, a person starts developing severe memory impairment and eventually loses the ability to do everyday chores and activities.
Currently, the medications available for Alzheimer’s disease work on temporarily improving the symptoms and also aims to slow down the rate of memory decline. These treatments focus on helping people with the condition achieve greater functioning ability and maintain their independence for as long as possible.(8) There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are many types of treatments that can help slow down the progression of the disease. One such emerging treatment is using an electromagnetic field to stop the progress of the disease.(9)
Researchers have been examining whether electromagnetic fields can help in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. However, one needs to understand that research on this topic is still at a very early stage.
This new research concept is being spearheaded by neuroEM Therapeutics, and the latest research has been recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.(10)
The study looked at the use of transcranial electromagnetic treatment (TEMT) for treating Alzheimer’s disease. Transcranial electromagnetic treatment is one of the many experimental, non-pharmacological treatments for Alzheimer’s, and the electromagnetic field works by penetrating the surface of the skull, deep within the brain. The goal of the treatment is to dislodge two known toxic proteins present inside the neurons of the brain that are believed to be linked with the development of Alzheimer’s disease.(11) These two toxic proteins are Aβ and p-tau oligomers.(12)
The research team’s work revolves around their device known as MemorEM, which is like a cap attached to an electronic control device. The electromagnetic cap is worn around the arm, and the study has shown some promise in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.(13)
To begin with, the research was carried out on just eight people between the ages of 63 to 82 years who had mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. All the participants underwent baseline testing, which included blood work, brain scans, cognitive and memory testing, and samples of their cerebrospinal fluid were taken. The participants were then made to use the MemorEM device two times a day in one hour sessions for a period of two months. After the two month period ended, researchers carried out more diagnostic tests to check them against the previous baseline scores.
The trial was deemed to be safe as no one reported any adverse physiological effects or behavioral changes. At the end of the two month period, the study found that the participants had experienced an improvement in their memory function. Though the memory had not gone back to pre-Alzheimer’s time period, they had a better memory than the present. They were able to remember things up to a year back.
The study also found that there was an increase in the presence of amyloid-beta protein in the cerebrospinal fluid, as well as more tau protein in the bloodstream.(14)
The results of the study made the researchers conclude that the use of transcranial electromagnetic treatment induced the breakdown of these harmful proteins.
Is Electromagnetic Cap An Effective Treatment For Alzheimer’s Disease?
Scientists and doctors have been trying to come up with a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease for years now. Developing any treatment for Alzheimer’s is an exhausting and challenging process. There are over 150 drugs already that have failed in Alzheimer’s clinical trials in the last 15 years.(15)
Experts in the field have high hopes from transcranial electromagnetic treatment, but it is still too early to determine if this can finally be the treatment for Alzheimer’s. There is still a lot more research that is needed as the technology is not yet well understood. There have to be more trials that include more participants from various walks of life.
Many questions still need to be answered, the most important of which is ‘what happens to the improvements once treatment is stopped’?
There is still a lot more research needed on this transcranial electromagnetic treatment and whether an electromagnetic cap can prove successful in treating Alzheimer’s disease in the long run. For this technology to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the researchers have to find answers to several pressing issues that have been raised. However, if all goes well, then an electromagnetic cap device for treating Alzheimer’s disease could find its way to the market in the next two to three years.
- Rosen, W.G., Mohs, R.C. and Davis, K.L., 1984. A new rating scale for Alzheimer’s disease. The American journal of psychiatry.
- Hardy, J.A. and Higgins, G.A., 1992. Alzheimer’s disease: the amyloid cascade hypothesis. Science, 256(5054), pp.184-186.
- Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. 2020. What Is Alzheimer’s?. [online] Available at: <https://alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers> [Accessed 15 June 2020]. 2020. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alzheimers-disease/> [Accessed 15 June 2020].
- Cdc.gov. 2020. What Is Alzheimer’s Disease? | CDC. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/aging/aginginfo/alzheimers.htm> [Accessed 15 June 2020].
- Hendrie, H.C., Osuntokun, B.O., Hall, K.S., Ogunniyi, A.O., Hui, S.L., Unverzagt, F.W., Gureje, O., Rodenberg, C.A., Baiyewu, O., Musick, B.S. and Adeyinka, A., 1995.
- Prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in two communities: Nigerian Africans and African Americans. The American journal of psychiatry.
- Janssen, J.C., Beck, J.A., Campbell, T.A., Dickinson, A., Fox, N.C., Harvey, R.J., Houlden, H., Rossor, M.N. and Collinge, J., 2003. Early onset familial Alzheimer’s disease: mutation frequency in 31 families. Neurology, 60(2), pp.235-239.
- Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia. 2020. Medications For Memory. [online] Available at: <https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/treatments/medications-for-memory> [Accessed 15 June 2020].
- Masliah, E., Mallory, M., Alford, M., DeTeresa, R., Hansen, L.A., McKeel, D.W. and Morris, J.C., 2001. Altered expression of synaptic proteins occurs early during progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Neurology, 56(1), pp.127-129.
- Arendash, G., Cao, C., Abulaban, H., Baranowski, R., Wisniewski, G., Becerra, L., Andel, R., Lin, X., Zhang, X., Wittwer, D. and Moulton, J., 2019. A Clinical Trial of mTranscranial Electromagnetic Treatment in Alzheimer’s Disease: Cognitive Enhancement and Associated Changes in Cerebrospinal Fluid, Blood, and Brain Imaging. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 71(1), pp.57-82.
- Arendash, G.W., 2016. Review of the evidence that transcranial electromagnetic treatment will be a safe and effective therapeutic against Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 53(3), pp.753-771.
- Tai, H.C., Serrano-Pozo, A., Hashimoto, T., Frosch, M.P., Spires-Jones, T.L. and Hyman, B.T., 2012. The synaptic accumulation of hyperphosphorylated tau oligomers in Alzheimer disease is associated with dysfunction of the ubiquitin-proteasome system. The American journal of pathology, 181(4), pp.1426-1435.
- Cummings, J., Lee, G., Ritter, A., Sabbagh, M. and Zhong, K., 2019. Alzheimer’s disease drug development pipeline: 2019. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions, 5, pp.272-293.
- Murphy, M.P. and LeVine III, H., 2010. Alzheimer’s disease and the amyloid-β peptide. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease, 19(1), pp.311-323.
- BioSpace. 2020. A Long Line Of Alzheimer’s Failures: Roche Drops Two Drug Trials | Biospace. [online] Available at: <https://www.biospace.com/article/a-long-line-of-failures-roche-drops-alzheimer-s-drug-trials/> [Accessed 15 June 2020].
- Alternative Treatment Options for Alzheimer’s Disease
- How Does Alzheimer’s Affect the Brain?
- How Gum Disease Could Lead To Alzheimer’s?
- Dementia vs Alzheimer’s
- Role of Genes in Alzheimer’s Disease & Its Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
- Can a Blood Test Predict Alzheimer’s Disease?
- Can a Concussion Cause Alzheimer’s Disease?