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New Device Slows Progression of Alzheimer's

Posted - Mar. 28, 2003 at 8:47 a.m.



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The numbers are staggering. One in ten people over 65 have Alzheimer's. And nearly half of those over 85 have the disease.

While there are a few medications that can help delay the progression of the disease, they cannot stop it altogether.

Now researchers are looking at a device to see if it can help people in the early stages of Alzheimer's. It's called a COGNIShunt.

It's similar to devices used for years to drain excess fluid from patients suffering from problems like water on the brain.

Doctor Jerome Goldstein is a neurologist at San Francisco's Alzheimer and Dementia Clinic.

Dr. Jerome Goldstein, Neurologist: "THE THEORY IS THAT IT TAKES AWAY ALL THE TOXINS FROM THE BRAIN THAT CAUSE THE AMYLOID PLAQUES AND THE NEUROFIBRILLARY TANGLES THAT ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE."

The shunt is implanted in the brain, and a tube drains the toxins down to the abdomen where they are safely absorbed.

There's some reason to think it might work. In a small, preliminary trial of the device involving 29 patients, those given the COGNIShunt showed improvement in mental function compared to those not given it.

Dr. Goldstein: "WE KNOW THAT THE TOXIC MATERIALS THAT RESULT IN THE NEUROFIRILLARY TANGLES AND AMYLOID PLAQUES ARE ACTUALLY OF HIGHER CONCENTRATION IN ALZHEIMER'S BRAINS AND IN THE SPINAL FLUID. SO IF WE REMOVE THEM, WE MAY, IN THEORY, HAVE AN IMPROVEMENT IN THE BRAIN'S FUNCITON."

Dr. Goldstein and other researchers are now trying to recruit patients with mild to moderate dementia for a larger clinical trial to test the device.

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