Brain 'pacemaker' to treat Alzheimer's

Dec. 8, 2012 at 8:44 PM
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BALTIMORE, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Researchers surgically implanted a pacemaker-like device into the brain of a patient with early Alzheimer's disease, they say is first such U.S. operation.

Dr. William S. Anderson, a neurosurgeon at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, performed the surgery and said it was part of a federally funded, multicenter clinical trial marking a new direction in clinical research designed to slow or halt the ravages of the disease.

"Recent failures in Alzheimer's disease trials using drugs such as those designed to reduce the buildup of beta amyloid plaques in the brain have sharpened the need for alternative strategies," Dr. Paul B. Rosenberg, also of the medical school and the trial's Johns Hopkins site director, said in a statement.

"This is a very different approach, whereby we are trying to enhance the function of the brain mechanically. It's a whole new avenue for potential treatment for a disease becoming all the more common with the aging of the population."

About 40 patients are expected to receive the deep brain stimulation implant over the next year or so at Johns Hopkins and four other institutions in North America as part of an advance study led by Johns Hopkins' Dr. Constantine G. Lyketsos and Dr. Andres Lozano of the University of Toronto.

Other sites include: the University of Toronto, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Florida and Banner Health System in Phoenix. The medical device company, Functional Neuromodulation Ltd., is also supporting the trial.

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