26 Aug UK scientists to begin ‘milestone’ Alzheimer’s trial by sending electrical currents into the brain | Science & Tech News
UK scientists are set to begin a “milestone” Alzheimer’s trial by sending electrical currents deep into patients’ brains.
A team from the UK Dementia Research Institute and Imperial College London has been issued a $1.5m (£1.14m) grant from the US-based Alzheimer’s Association and Bill Gates.
People who have Alzheimer’s disease have impaired function in the mitochondria of cells in their hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with learning, emotions and the formation of new memories.
Mitochondria are commonly referred to as the powerhouses of the cell. They act like a digestive system which takes in nutrients, breaks them down, and creates energy rich molecules.
The team led by Dr Nir Grossman has developed a new method called temporal interference brain stimulation, which aims to boost the critical functions in the hippocampus.
The method involves applying separate electric fields to the scalp, which then cross at a chosen point deep within the brain, causing the stimulation.
The UK Dementia Research Institute has said this works in the same way exercise strengthens muscles.
The therapy does not require patients to undergo surgery.
Dr Grossman said after the grant was awarded: “We are very excited about this unique opportunity.
“There is more and more evidence that mitochondrial dysfunction in deep brain structures plays an important role in the early degeneration seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease. We know, however, that neuronal mitochondria are highly dynamic and tightly coupled to the activity of the cells.
“This Part the Cloud award from the Alzheimer’s Association and Bill Gates will allow us for the first time to directly test whether we can use temporal interference to revive mitochondrial function in the most affected regions of the brain.
“This is an important milestone for us, concluding years of work on a breakthrough technological development, and testing in animals and healthy humans.”
Professor Paul Matthews, Centre Director at UK DRI at Imperial, commented: “This study brings cutting edge technologies for brain stimulation and advanced brain imaging together to test an exciting new concept for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
“The study leads efforts by the UK DRI at Imperial College London to rapidly translate new science for the benefit of people with dementia.
“I hope that our work will provide further hope to the many who are feeling the impact of this terrible disease.”