Low-dose radiation therapy may improve Alzheimer’s symptoms

Radiation therapy
  • A research study found that giving people with serious Alzheimer’s disease a low dose of radiation could improve their quality of life.
  • A small amount of damage to molecules is caused by the low dose of radiation, which triggers a cellular defensive response that includes antioxidant development and damage repair.
  • More research is required to determine the optimum radiation efficacy range.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes memory loss and cognitive dysfunction by causing damage to the brain’s nerve cells. In the United States, Alzheimer’s disease is one of the leading causes of death for the elderly, accounting for 60–80 percent of dementia cases.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are medications that can help alleviate and delay the progression of some of its symptoms.

Memory loss, uncertainty, and the loss of other cognitive skills such as thinking and decision-making are all common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Late-stage, extreme Alzheimer’s disease is described by an inability to speak as well as impaired movement, according to experts.

A case study of people with serious Alzheimer’s disease

A recent pilot study led by scientists from the Baycrest and Sunnybrook Health Centres in Toronto, as well as Cuttler & Associates in Vaughan, Canada, found that giving extreme Alzheimer’s patients low doses of radiation, such as from a CT scan, can enhance their quality of life.

The findings were published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Dr. Sean Symons, the study’s author and a scientist at the Sunnybrook Research Institute, offered additional comments for this report.

The researchers decided to see if the findings of a 2015 case study could be replicated. According to this study, a patient with extreme Alzheimer’s disease who received low doses of radiation improved significantly in cognitive ability, voice, and movement to the point that they were able to switch from a hospice to a care facility.

Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders may be exacerbated by oxidative stress, which can cause DNA and cellular harm.

Low-dose ionising radiation (LDIR), according to the study’s authors, activates pathways that defend against the harmful effects of oxidative stress, alleviating some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Four patients with extreme AD, ranging in age from 81 to 90 years, received a total of three low-dose radiation treatments spaced two weeks apart via standard CT brain scans. The first treatment consisted of two scans totaling 80 milligrammes of radiation (mGy), while the second and third treatments were each 40 mGy.

To assess changes in quality of life, the researchers looked at both quantitative (measuring cognitive, behavioural, and functional abilities) and qualitative (observations and accounts of experiences with family members and caretakers) steps.

Enhanced vigilance, understanding, and recognition

While the quantitative tests revealed small differences, the authors noted that they were insufficient to detect major improvements in patients with serious Alzheimer’s disease.

The qualitative tests, on the other hand, revealed the most important improvements to the researchers. Within a day of their first treatment, three of the four participants’ families or caregivers registered enhanced alertness, knowledge of surroundings, and recognition.

When asked, one of the participants “was able to comfortably get into his wheelchair and place his feet on the foot-rests.” He sang to the beat and cheered properly at a concert.”

“He was happy to see me — he talked to me right away and gave me several kisses — genuine kisses like years ago,” a family member of another participant said. To the music, he was clapping his hands. My mother accepted that he hadn’t done this in years.”

In terms of qualitative and quantitative tests, one of the participants showed no changes or improvements. However, no evidence of worsening conditions or symptoms following radiation was found in any of the participants.

Risk factors of low vs. high-dose radiation

Experts know that high levels of radiation — referred to in the paper as a 3 grey threshold — destroy DNA and raise the risk of health problems like cancer. Low doses of radiation, such as the background radiation found in routine CT scans, can, in some cases, be beneficial to one’s health.

“The long-term effects of radiation (such as radiation-induced cancers) are insignificant in patients of this generation, all greater than 80 years old,” Dr. Symons told Medical News Today. “However, if [we propose] ongoing care or treatment in younger AD patients, the cumulative higher radiation exposure and its risks will have to be weighed against the treatment’s benefits.”

Furthermore, the paper claims that oxidative stress-induced brain damage is a potentially greater danger that experts must discuss.

The body’s antioxidant-producing mechanisms weaken with age, leaving it unable to repair DNA damage properly. This is especially important for people with dementia, who are often coping with the effects of oxidative stress as they get older.

While high-dose radiation will exacerbate the harm, a low dose will activate these mechanisms and increase the production of antioxidants to mitigate oxidative damage.

The research’s next steps

Although the results of this case study were generally positive, they were limited by the small sample size, as well as the lack of a control group and successful oxidative stress controls. These findings will need to be investigated further in broader follow-up clinical trials.

Furthermore, the authors note that deciding the appropriate dosage and the optimal time between doses will aid in increasing the efficacy and length of treatment for Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.

“The primary objective of counselling for older[er] adults with AD should be to enhance the quality of their lives by improving their well-being, remaining brain healthy[y], and restoring contact with family and friends to prevent social isolation, depression, and under-stimulation,” according to the report.

Sources

Radiation treatment may alleviate symptoms of severe Alzheimer’s disease. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/radiation-treatment-may-alleviate-symptoms-of-severe-alzheimers-disease

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