Deep Brain Stimulation

What: Tiny electrodes implanted into a patient’s brain deliver a weak current to spark activity in specific regions of the brain – primarily the ones involved in memory. It’s like a pacemaker for the brain. The same technology has been successfully used to treat Parkinson’s disease.

Why: This treatment doesn’t affect the cause of the disease but it seems to jolt areas of the brain back into action.

Who: This treatment is currently being used on people with mild or early stage Alzheimer’s disease.

When: A Phase 2 trial with 40 patients across North America is currently underway. If proven successful, the treatment is about five years away. DBS is also being considered for epilepsy, OCD, chronic pain, Tourette’s syndrome and anorexia.

Where: In Canada, a small number of patients are being recruited at the Toronto Western Hospital.

Early Results: Brain scans taken of patients participating in earlier studies showed increases in glucose metabolism, an indicator of neuronal activity.  Some patients seemed to have improved cognition, memory and quality of life.  DBS seems to reverse the downturn in brain metabolism associated with AD although so far nobody knows how long the effects might last.

Find out more: ADvance or email dbs@uhnresearch.ca

Insulin Nose Spray

What: When taken as a nose spray insulin reaches the brain within a few minutes and improves memory. Patients would use the nose spray twice daily.

Why: Insulin, a hormone that regulates your blood sugar, appears to play a role in memory. Alzheimer’s patients have lower levels of insulin in the brain.

Who: This treatment is currently being used on people with mild or early stage Alzheimer’s disease.

When: It will be several years before researchers know if this treatment is effective.

Where: The US National Institute of Health has announced a larger study. 240 patients across the US will be treated for one year. The details are not yet available.

Early Results: A phase 2 study of 140 patients showed that patients on the treatment showed improvement in daily functioning and scored higher on memory tests.

Find out more: ClinicalTrials.gov

DIAN

What: DIAN means dominantly inherited Alzheimer’s Network. A rare genetic mutation causes the disease and there is a 50/50 chance it will be passed onto any children. This population is less than 1% of all cases of AD. Two drugs are currently being assessed to see if they can prevent the disease; gantenerumab and  solanezumab.

Why: Scientists will administer the drugs and monitor early indicators of Alzheimer. These patients provide a unique opportunity to learn more about Alzheimer’s treatments, and what is learned here may then be applied to patients with the much more common form of Alzheimer's which is not dominantly inherited.

Who: Only family members of patients with this rare genetic mutation can participate. The goal of the trial is to assess if the disease can be prevented.

When: The first part of the trial which started in 2013, is expected to take three years. The study will be expanded and extended if one of the drugs appears to be working.

Where: This study includes research centres in the US, UK and Australia.

Early results: It’s too soon to speculate.

Find out more: DIAN Expanded Registry


Learn more about clinical trials in Canada


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