In the absence of a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, researchers are turning to out-of-the-box approaches to slow or ease the progression of the disease. A group of scientists from Tel Aviv University found that hyperbaric oxygen treatments could help alleviate some of the damage of Alzheimer’s disease.
Hyperbaric oxygen chambers have been around for hundreds of years, but recent research suggests that they are helpful at treating some diseases. In fact, Medicare reimburses patients who use the treatment for conditions like decompression sickness, necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease), carbon monoxide poisoning, gas gangrene, osteomyelitis (a bone infection), wounds that won’t heal and radiation injury to soft tissue and bone.
Here’s what happens inside an oxygen chamber: a patient is put in a room that is pressurized to have twice the normal air pressure. Pure oxygen flows into the chamber or room, which researchers from Tel Aviv said increases the oxygen in blood, stimulating growth factors and stem cells that promote healing.
For this study, scientists put mice genetically engineered to have Alzheimer’s into a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for one hour each day for 14 days. Afterward, the mice underwent a series of behavioral and tissue biochemical tests to determine how the chambers affected their symptoms and the pathology of the disease.
Scientists found that, compared to the control group of mice that did not go in the chamber, those that did receive oxygen therapy had reduced beta-amyloid plaque pathology by 40 percent, and reduced neuroinflammation by about 40 percent. They also noted better performance on behavioral tests.
“We have now shown for the first time that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can actually improve the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease and correct behavioral deficits associated with the disease,” said Uri Ashery of Tel Aviv University’s Sagol School of Neuroscience and the Faculty of Life Sciences, who led the research for the study.
The researchers are continuing to test the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen chambers on mice models, but hope that they will gain enough information to make the therapy useful for humans. “We assume that the main challenge in human use will be to initiate the treatment at early stages before significant amount of brain tissue is lost,” said Shai Efrati of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Sagol School of Neuroscience and Assaf-Harofeh Medical Center.
This study was published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.