Diagrams from Knight's  patent  for a headset that uses radio waves to treat Alzheimer's

Diagrams from Knight's patent for a headset that uses radio waves to treat Alzheimer's

There's a new development in Alzheimer's treatment: Connecticut resident Eric Knight recently received a patent for his electro-magnetic field (EMF)-inducing headset, which uses radio waves to treat this formidable disease.

Alzheimer’s is characterized by beta-amyloid plaque buildup that interferes with and even disables nerve signaling. Beta-amyloid buildup leads to what scientists call “tangles.” In healthy brain tissue, the brain’s transport system is comprised of parallel rows of tissue. In the brain tissue of patients affected by Alzheimer’s, tau, or the protein that keeps the rows of tissue straight, breaks down. This causes the usually organized rows to twist and clump into tangles. Since the transport system is compromised, nutrients can no longer move between cells, leading to cell death.

...while studies carried out on mice don’t directly translate to human results, this was a promising step towards alternative treatments for patients with Alzheimer’s.

In 2009, a team of scientists from the University of South Florida found that EMF exposure has “cognitive-protective and cognitive-enhancing effects.”The team used mice bred to have Alzheimer’s and subjected the experimental group to two one-hour periods of EMF exposure per day. The control group received no EMF exposure. After 6 months of this treatment, the mice exposed to EMF showed limited signs of cognitive impairment and performed significantly better than the control group. Furthermore, autopsies revealed that mice treated with EMF exposure had significantly fewer tangles than mice in the control group. The team hypothesized that the EMF exposure led to increased brain temperature and neuronal activity, which also increased blood flow in the brain and reduced the grouping of beta-amyloid proteins. The scientists stressed that while studies carried out on mice don’t directly translate to human results, this was a promising step towards alternative treatments for patients with Alzheimer’s.

The team hypothesized that the EMF exposure led to increased brain temperature and neuronal activity, which also increased blood flow in the brain and reduced the grouping of beta-amyloid proteins.

After reading this study, which was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Eric Knight began working on a headset that would deliver a controlled dose of EMF exposure to the wearer. The device has four inward-facing panels that surround the wearer’s head and emit radio waves. Although the headset has yet to be tested in a medical setting, Knight and others have expressed high hopes for this form of treatment.  This device, paired with early detection and preventative measures, could provide more successful treatment of Alzheimer’s and bring us one step closer to the cure.

Natalie Danckers is a junior in Baker College at Rice University.

RESOURCES

1.    Connecticut Inventor Patents Potential Alzheimer’s Treatment. http://wnpr.org/post/connecticut-inventor-patents-potential-alzheimers-treatment (accessed 6/20/15), part of WNPR

2.    Connecticut Inventor Patents Potential Alzheimer’s Treatment. https://www.alz.org/braintour.asp (accessed 6/20/15), part of Alzheimer’s Association

3.    Arendash, GW. Electromagnetic Field Treatment Protects Against and Reverses Cognitive Impairment in Alzheimer’s Disease Mice. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2010, 19 191-210

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