Doctors at West Virginia University are performing a promising new Alzheimer’s therapy. WBOY-TV gained up-close insight into the headline-making WVU Alzheimer’s clinical trial that’s the world’s first of its kind.
“There have been many procedures, many trials for Alzheimer’s, and sadly many have failed,” said Ali Rezai, M.D., Executive Chair, WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute.
But this month, doctors had a rare success for Alzheimer’s disease.
Investigators at the West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute performed a procedure that may slow the progression of the deadly disease that currently has no effective treatments.
Rezai said, “The procedure involves the patient laying down on a MRI table, and then a helmet comes over their head that delivers ultrasound waves into the brain. When you couple these ultrasound waves into the brain with an injection, of what we call micro bubbles, these micro bubbles start oscillating, and they open up the blood-brain barrier.”
The blood-brain barrier protects the brain by allowing nutrients in while keeping out germs and toxins. WVU’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute is the first in the world to participate in phase II of a new clinical trial using ultrasound technology.
“The goal of the technology is to open up the blood-brain barrier using ultrasound and allow the plaques, hopefully, to be reduced and allow the clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s to be improved as well,” Rezai said.
Neurosurgeon Ali Rezai is leading the WVU team to determine whether focused ultrasound reduces the plaque buildup and cognitive decline that are the hallmarks of the disease.
The first patient to take part in the non-invasive trial is Judi Polak, 61, a nurse from Morgantown who has early-stage Alzheimer’s.
“I’ve accepted it. It is what it is now. I’m still sad sometimes, but it is something that I can’t change, but I can help change for other people,” Polak said.
Even though Polak has stopped working because of memory loss from the disease, she isn’t giving up.
“That is the mantra. Memories are worth fighting for.”
It’s a battle Polak and so many others are facing.
“We are fighting this disease. We are not suffering from it.”
Doctors said the potential benefits of this treatment will take several years to fully evaluate.
“We want to also be realistic. This is an investigative study, and we need to conduct the research study, but so far, so good,” Rezai said.
Additional patients are expected to participate in the study at WVU.
To see if you or a family member might be eligible, call 304-293-5150 or email WVURNI@hsc.wvu.edu.