By Shai Efrati, M.D.
Recently published landmark study in Aging, is part of an ongoing program researching age-related cognitive decline. Conducted by the Sagol School of Neuroscience in Tel Aviv and Tel Aviv University, the study marks the first time that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) – a non-pharmaceutical method – has proven effective in reversing the main activators and early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
HBOT is a form of therapy that involves administering 100% pure oxygen to a patient in a pressurized environment. It has been used for decades to treat other conditions, such as non-healing ischemic wounds.
Vascular dysfunction and aging
The brain is an incredibly complex organism home to a vast network of neurons that depend on oxygen to thrive. As we age, the blood flow in our brain naturally begins to decline due to the occlusion of blood vessels. The reduced blood flow to the brain in turn causes the organ to receive less oxygen culminating in brain tissue dysfunction and loss. This decreased blood flow is generated by vascular dysfunction, a known precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, along with amyloid plaques.
What are amyloid plaques?
Amyloid plaques are hard, insoluble clusters of proteins formed in the spaces between the neurons in your brain. A healthy brain usually flushes them out without consequence.
As the brain ages, it’s more susceptible to forming plaques in and around its blood vessel walls. Once an amyloid plaque forms, it can damage the neurons in the brain. These plaques are thought to contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and the cognitive decline that coincides.
For years, scientists have wondered whether it’s even possible to dissolve or shrink amyloid plaques. The ground-breaking new study proves for the first time that a unique protocol of HBOT – by reversing vascular dysfunction – can reverse amyloid plaques and prevent them from forming in the first place.
Reversing the main activators of cognitive decline
Study researchers initially used HBOT with mice genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer’s to understand the effect it has on amyloid plaques. The therapy improved vascular dysfunction and increased blood flow in the brain, decreasing amyloid plaques by over 30% and shrinking plaques by nearly 19%.
HBOT was also shown to prevent the formation of new amyloid plaques, and the mice exhibited improved performance on cognitive tasks when compared to the control group.
The mice-based part of the study gave promising new evidence that HBOT can be used as both a treatment and a preventative measure for Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers then sought to use the same treatment with human subjects with memory decline.
The human test group consisted of six patients around the age of 70, all suffering from mild cognitive impairment. After receiving 60 daily HBOT sessions over a three-month period, the patients saw significant improvements to their cognitive functions, including better memory recall, concentration and response times. The improved cognitive function correlated with increase brain perfusion as demonstrated by high resolution MRI (similar to the beneficial effect demonstrated directly on the brain of the mice).
Researchers theorize this is due to HBOT’s ability to improve vascular dysfunction in the brain. When the brain receives more blood, it receives more oxygen. And when the brain receives more oxygen, it can function at its full capacity and the vicious cycle that culminate in severe cognitive decline and dementia can be prevented.
Propelling the path forward
The study gives hope that HBOT can be used as a viable drug-free method to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease, bringing us one step closer to preventing and even repairing memory loss and mild cognitive impairment.
By treating vascular dysfunction, we’re mapping out the path toward Alzheimer’s prevention. More research is underway to further demonstrate how HBOT can improve cognitive function and become an influential tool in the imperative fight against the disease.
Currently, Aviv Clinics in Central Florida, is the only location in the United States to offer the specific HBOT protocol used in this remarkable study through the Aviv Medical Program. The comprehensive program uses testing and assessments before, during, and after protocol to track progress and provide multidisciplinary clinical team support.
About Shai Efrati, M.D., Chair of Aviv Scientific’s Medical Advisory Board and Director of the Sagol Center
Email: [email protected]
Shai Efrati, M.D., is the leader in research and treatment of age-related cognitive and functional decline and novel applications of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to maximize human performance. Based on an exclusive partnership with the world’s largest hyperbaric medicine and research facility, the Sagol Center at Shamir Medical Center in Israel, Aviv is introducing a global network of clinics delivering the most effective evidence-based treatment of the aging process – The Aviv Medical Program. The three-month regimen developed on over a decade of research under the scientific leadership of Shai is available in North America at Aviv Clinics, located in Central Florida.
Shai Efrati completed his M.D. at Ben Gurion University specializing in internal medicine and nephrology.