A potential new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease -- partly based on technology developed in Connecticut -- has proven in an early clinical trial to reverse some of the cognitive decline which is a hallmark of the disease.
Most current approaches to slowing or curing Alzheimer’s involve drugs -- but this is a medical device.
It’s a close-fitting cap containing an array of antennae that can provide a dose of radio waves to the brain of a patient.
Arizona-based NeuroEM Therapeutics collaborated with Connecticut inventor Eric Knight, CEO of Remarkable Technologies, on this novel approach to a disease that affects more than 5 million Americans.
In a small trial of just eight patients -- independently carried out by the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute in Florida -- the device was shown to stabilize or reverse cognitive decline in all but one.
The therapy is called transcranial electromagnetic treatment, or TEMT. In this early trial, designed to prove the safety and initial efficacy of the device, patients wore the cap for two one-hour sessions each day over a period of two months.
“This pioneering study suggests that TEMT may be an entirely new therapeutic intervention against Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Gary Arendash, CEO of NeuroEM Therapeutics in a statement. “TEMT appears to be affecting the Alzheimer’s disease process through several actions directly inside neurons (brain cells), which is where we believe the disease process needs to be stopped and hopefully reversed.”
The patients were given an array of cognitive assessment tests before the start of the trial, and the same tests were then repeated two weeks after the end of their treatment. The researchers say that memory decline in most patients appeared to have been reversed to cognitive levels equivalent to 12 months earlier.
Stratford-based angel investor Dr. Ed Goodwin was an early backer of the technology, and he’s now on the board of NeuroEM.
“Normally you’d expect people to be declining by a point or two or three over the course of a two month study, in their scores,” he explained in an interview with Connecticut Public Radio. “I think the average score improvement [in the test patients] was over four points, which is -- like, nobody sees that in an Alzheimer’s test.”
But he said he expects the response of the Alzheimer’s research community to this result to be restrained.
“I think cautious optimism describes everybody’s view in early stage studies, which is very appropriate,” he said. “Alzheimer’s disease has been an extraordinarily difficult nut to crack.”
This early trial was small scale, and conducted without a control group receiving only placebo treatment. The company now expects to move into a larger pivotal trial, involving 120 patients at several institutions, and testing several versions of the treatment. That’s expected to start early in 2020, and take at least a year to complete.
Eric Knight, the Connecticut-based inventor who collaborated with NeuroEM to develop the technology, called the trial outcome “by far the proudest moment of my professional life.”
“As an inventor and entrepreneur, all you can hope for is to have opportunities to make a positive impact on society,” he said. “And this is about as important as it gets.”