PHOENIX -- It's a device that has been known to help the heart, but it could soon add Alzheimer’s to the list. A pacemaker like device is being put to the test right here in the Valley.
“As the population ages, we're seeing more and more patients coming in with Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Anna Burke with Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI).
More than five million people are living with this disease. It slowly robs someone of their memory and thinking skills.
“Our goal as researchers is really to find new therapies,” Burke said.
This includes using deep brain stimulation for patients with a mild form of the disease. It's being tested out in a new clinical trial called ADvance.
Burke is the study's principal investigator at BAI.
“It’s actually a technology that has been available for years now,” Burke said. “It has been FDA approved in diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Tourette’s syndrome.”
The system includes implanting a pacemaker-like device beneath skin in the patient's chest.
“There are two wires that are then led through the neck right under the skin and to the head,” Burke said. “The neurosurgeon forms two small holes through which he implants these wires into a certain part of the brain.”
“We think that stimulating these parts of the brain will actually be helpful in slowing down the progression or the illness, and possibly the hope is actually stimulating these areas and improving them,” Burke continued.
A sign of hope leading to better treatments or finding a cure down the road.
“Having a way where we can stop the illness in its tracks or at least slow it down significantly, would be amazing,” Burke said.
Banner Alzheimer's Institute is the first study site in the U.S. to participate in this cutting-edge clinical trial.
It’s currently recruiting patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease for The ADvance Study. For information, patients and their caregivers can call 1-866-840-5838 or check out www.banneralz.org.