Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and has long been associated with the accumulation of plaques (protein clumps) in the brain. Scientists in Israel have shown that an oxygen therapy can prevent the formation of new plaques and even remove existing plaques in mice with Alzheimer’s disease.
The scientists used a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease called 5xFAD. Transgenic mice receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy to see if they can stop or slow the progression of the disease.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber. Indoors, the air pressure is two to three times higher than normal air pressure. It is commonly used to treat decompression sickness (a disease that divers may have), carbon monoxide poisoning, and some forms of stroke or brain damage. It works by forcing tissues with low oxygen levels (hypoxia) to increase oxygenation. It can improve blood flow to the brain to nourish brain cells that are usually deprived of blood and oxygen in Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists at Tel Aviv University treated 15 six-month-old mice (approximately 30 years old) with hyperbaric oxygen therapy, one hour a day, five days a week, for four weeks. Compared with control mice that did not receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy, the therapy not only reduced the number and size of plaques in the mice’s brains, but also slowed the formation of new plaques.
In patients with Alzheimer’s disease, blood flow to the brain is reduced. This study showed that blood flow to the brain of mice receiving oxygen therapy increased, which helped clear plaque in the brain and reduce inflammation-a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
By improving blood flow to the brain, reducing plaque levels, and reducing hypoxia, mice receiving daily oxygen therapy began to show improvements in cognitive abilities, such as spatial recognition memory and contextual memory-remembering emotions, social interactions, and events The relevant spatial or temporal environment.
Not just a mouse
The researchers then used these findings to evaluate the effectiveness of oxygen therapy for six people over 65 with cognitive decline. They found that 60 oxygen therapies over 90 days increased blood flow in certain areas of the brain and significantly improved the patient’s cognitive abilities—improving memory, concentration, and information processing speed.
An earlier study found that in another mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, oxygen therapy reduced plaque in the brain. Moreover, before that, my colleagues and I published a study in Scientific Reports, which showed that pure oxygen at normal atmospheric pressure can increase the brain of six-month-old mice with Alzheimer’s disease. Blood volume, which may increase the removal of plaque from the brain.
Together, these findings suggest that oxygen therapy may be able to reduce the cognitive decline associated with aging and dementia in mice and humans.
“I don’t think this can’cure’ Alzheimer’s disease in humans,” Professor Uri Ashery, the lead author of the study, told The Times of Israel, “but it may be able to significantly slow its progression and severity.”
However, it is worth noting that the scale of the Israeli study is too small to draw any definite conclusions. In addition, for most people, 60 compressions of oxygen therapy lasting one hour at a time are simply not feasible.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is currently not available at home or in nursing homes, because most people with Alzheimer’s disease live there. For most people with this disease, going to the hospital or clinic every day is not a practical thing.
The cost of these rooms is as high as 100,000 pounds, and an additional annual maintenance fee of about 1,500 pounds is required. The cost per treatment is between 40 and 250 pounds. Given that there are nearly 1 million people with dementia in the UK alone, it is clear that it is currently not feasible or economically feasible to provide each patient with 60 days of hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Although the results are promising in mice, they still need to be confirmed in Alzheimer’s patients in large clinical trials.