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Potential breakthrough treatment for Alzheimer's being researched in San Antonio in part of worldwide study

UT Health San Antonio and University Health are teaming up in a worldwide study.

SAN ANTONIO — There's a potential breakthrough treatment for Alzheimer's disease. 

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and University Health are teaming up to be part of a worldwide study to treat the disease. Researchers hope the technique could slow down, or even stop Alzheimer's completely.

The technique being used is called deep brain stimulation, or DBS therapy. The therapy was originally being used to target obesity, but researchers found it actually helped improve patients' memory.

Dr. Alexander Papanastassiou, an associate professor of neurosurgery at UT Health San Antonio, who sees University Health patients told us, "Deep brain stimulation is a tried and true, well tested therapy. That's the standard of care for Parkinson's disease and essential tremor." 

Dr. Papanastassiou says the 71-year-old female patient that was chosen qualified for the procedure, and had already been on medication that produces side effects between doses for most people. 

Dr. Papanastassiou added, "She was very enthusiastic about it because the medicine certainly helped, and they're worth taking, but they don't slow down the progression of the disease." 

For investigational use of DBS therapy, the device is implanted in a patient with mild Alzheimer's disease near the fornix in the middle of the brain to electrically stimulate the memory circuit, and improve the flow of electricity through it. This is expected to slow the memory decline experienced by Alzheimer's patients. 

It is similar to a heart pacemaker that is implanted beneath the skin in the patient's chest, and two very thin wires called leads that deliver electricity directly to the brain.  

They hope to know the results of the study within about a year. Dr. Papanastassiou told us, "We overall plan to enroll 210 patients in the study worldwide, and for the first 90 patients, they'll be either high frequency or low frequency to see which one works better."  

For more information on the trial, or to see if you or your loved one may qualify for the study, contact Amy Saklad at (210) 567-8229, saklada@uthscsa.edu or click here.

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