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elderly old man cane 248 88.(Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Oxygen therapy eases Alzheimer’s symptoms in mouse model
"There are serious clinical implications to this research."
High-pressure (hyperbaric) oxygen therapy has been found by Tel Aviv University researchers to ease the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in mice.

On the basis of the experiments, Prof. Uri Ashery of TAU’s Sagol School of Neuroscience and the Faculty of Life Sciences said such a treatment for this common type of dementia would be “revolutionary.”

The study was recently published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging. There are currently an estimated 47.5 million people around the world who suffer from Alzheimer’s; the figure is expected to jump to 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050.

“The use of hyperbaric oxygen chambers has been shown in the past to be extremely effective in treating wounds that are slow to heal,” said Ashery, who led the research team. “We have now shown for the first time that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can actually improve the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease and correct behavioral deficits associated with the disease. This research is extremely exciting as it explores a new therapy that holds promise as a treatment of Alzheimer’s.”

The research was conducted by TAU doctoral student Ronit Shapira together with Prof. Beka Solomon; Prof. Dan Frenkel; and Prof. Shai Efrati of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, the Sagol school and the Yitzhak Shamir (Assaf Harofeh) Medical Center.

In hyperbaric oxygen chambers, the air pressure is increased to twice that of normal air. Under these conditions, oxygen solubility in the blood increases and is transported by blood vessels throughout the body. The added oxygen stimulates the release of growth factors and stem cells, which themselves promote healing.

The TAU scientists used a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease and built a custom-made hyperbaric oxygen chamber suitable for small animals. Then, over the course of 14 days, the team administered hyperbaric oxygen treatment to the mice for one hour per day. After 14 days, the mice underwent a series of behavioral tests as well as tissue biochemical tests to understand how hyperbaric oxygen treatment affects the pathological hallmarks associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The treatment reduced behavioral deficiencies in comparison to that of non-transgenic control mice, reduced plaque pathology by 40% and cut neuroinflammation by about 40%.

In what the authors called a “hallmark study,” the beneficial physiological effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy were directly demonstrated on Alzheimer-affected brain tissue, added Efrati. “We assume that the main challenge in human use will be to initiate the treatment at early stages before a significant amount of brain tissue is lost.”

“There are serious clinical implications to this research,” said Shapira. “Hyperbaric oxygen treatment is a well-tolerated and safe therapy used in clinics around the world for various medical conditions, including neurological disorders. Although further research is needed to elucidate the underlying beneficial mechanisms of the therapy and to evaluate its beneficial effects in various Alzheimer patient populations, it holds great potential for the treatment of Alzheimer’s.”

The researchers are currently testing the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen treatment on an additional mouse model of Alzheimer’s to investigate the mechanisms underlying its impact on the disease.
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