First U.S. patient tests DBS device for Alzheimer's

Functional Neuromodulation's deep-brain stimulation (DBS) device has been implanted into its first U.S. Alzheimer's patient--the first surgery of its kind here.

The patient to receive the so-called brain pacemaker has early-stage Alzheimer's, and the hope is that the device will help slow and maybe even reverse cognitive decline that is typical of the neurodegenerative disease. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine performed the implant in November as part of the company's ADvance study launched in August in the U.S. and Canada, a multicenter trial exploring whether the medical device (commonly used to treat Parkinson's) can work where Alzheimer's drugs have regularly failed.

Some preliminary data offers some hope for the larger trial, which will ultimately involve as many as 40 patients ages 55-80 with mild Alzheimer's and compare how DBS affects the patients when turned on versus turned off. Six Alzheimer's patients in Canada have already tested the DBS implants in 2010, Johns Hopkins explains, and those patients showed some sign of an ongoing boost in their glucose metabolism--a sign of neuronal activity. That's a good sign, the hospital notes, because Azheimer's patients face decreases in their glucose metabolism.

Functional Neuromodulation is relatively small, but it has backing, in part, from Medtronic ($MDT), one of the largest medical device outfits around. Other institutions taking part in the ADvance trial include the University of Toronto, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Florida and Banner Health System.

- read the Johns Hopkins release
- here's the initial ADvance announcement