by William K. Summers, M.D.
In 1999, I quietly started my Alzheimer's Clinic in Albuquerque to further study innovative treatments and to solve problems of Alzheimer's disease. This medical clinic was founded on the following principles:
1. Alzheimer's disease may be deferrable or even preventable.
This principle was professed by me over 15 years ago. At the time, most people did not understand that the brain is capable of regeneration of nerve cells. Most scientists believed in the genetic, Beta amyloid, or tau theory.
By my paradigm, Alzheimer's disease was caused by any of a number of brain injuries which lead to a final common pathway of oxidative injury, inflammation, and spiraling local pockets of brain cell death. Alzheimer's is similar to rheumatoid arthritis; except it is inflammation of the brain, while rheumatoid arthritis is inflammation of joints. This radical hypothesis was published in 2004. (Summers, WK. Alzheimer's disease, oxidative injury, and cytokines. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. 6:651-657, 2004).
2. Memory problems (Senior Moments) are related to Alzheimer's disease.
In 1993 I hypothesized that one cause of Alzheimer's disease was a "slow infectious disease", reasoning that the leading cause of dementia in 1899 which filled long term nursing institutes was syphilis, contracted 30 years or more before. I reasoned that various insults to the brain could later lead to dementia. This is the case with pugilistic dementia seen years after a boxer had retired from fighting.
Other candidates seemed to be hypertension, diabetes, atrial fibrillation (skipped heartbeats), open heart surgery, and DNA viruses. Today these are all accepted as pre-Alzheimer's conditions. The list has expanded to include obesity, head trauma, and the bacterium chlamydia pneumoniae. Such mild cognitive impairment as forgetfulness and senior moments have also been discovered to be a pre-Alzheimer's condition. (Chertkow H. Mild cognitive impairment. Curr Opin Neurol 2002;15:401-407.)
3. Accurate diagnosis is available now and between 87-94% accurate. In 1978 when I began treating patients with dementia, I established a detailed means of making the diagnosis by way of a series of blood tests, urinalysis, brain CT scan, and the revolutionary new imaging technique called the cranial MRI. By this means, I was able to be better than 90 % accurate at autopsy.
Today, this has become the standard. Nevertheless, even two years ago a major charity was advertising that the only way to make the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease with certainty was by autopsy. The battery of tests is quite time consuming, costly, and often uncomfortable. Further, research has shown that a person with memory complaints at 60 years or older has a 87% accuracy in predicting presence of Alzheimer disease at autopsy.
Sixty-five percent will be Alzheimer's disease alone. Twenty-two will have a vascular component, Parkinson's disease or other non-treatable contributing factors. Thus today all such patients are initially started on treatment for Alzheimer's. If the response is not what is anticipated, selective further tests are done.
4. Effective treatments are currently available for Alzheimer's victims.
Available treatments are much more effective than the public is led to believe. My clinic started with the assumption that there is something that can be done to improve the circumstance of each dementia victim. For example, clinical depressions co-exist in 60% Alzheimer victims. In the Alzheimer Clinic of Albuquerque, these are diagnosed and treated.
Treatment almost always involves several medications. Severe illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, and hypertension often require multiple medications. Alzheimer's affects multiple neurotransmitters of the brain, so multiple treatments should be expected. When beneficial, bio-supplements are added as they tend to return cellular mechanisms to normal.
For more than 20 years I had dreamed of another approach to Alzheimers disease, that of a care system emphasizing prevention as well as treatment. As such, it would not be limited just to Alzheimer patients or the frail, elderly patient suffering severe dementia. Instead, it would also serve the robust elderly with minimum memory impairment, as well as providing for the unique needs of caregivers.
Over the next ten years many other doctors and scientists gradually began to admit that Alzheimer's disease might be more effectively treated and even prevented. As I suspected earlier, the prevailing common wisdom was definitely flawed.
After ten years of serving in my clinic, the role of oxidative damage in Alzheimer's disease, and many diseases of aging is to me convincing. The so-called vascular dementias are the end result of slowly progressive vascular infarcts.
Excessive oxidative damage from so-called free radicals implied the failure of anti-oxidative defenses resulting in failure of superoxide dismutase, glutathione and CoQ10 with resulting oxidative damage to brain lipids as well as damage and mutations to mitochondrial DNA.
I began to focus on the effects of oxidative radicals produced in large quantities from the daily process of simply metabolizing the food we eat.
Food is a major contributor to aging. After liver processing, the food is sent to our mitochondria. This is part of the normal process of ATP energy production. The ATP in turn are energetic particles that have been deprived of important electrons and are merely seeking to restore their electric balance by stealing these electrons back from adjacent protein, lipid and mitochondrial DNA strands, causing the slow progressive accumulation of oxidative damage and mutations.
Then I began to conceive of a mixture of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and phospholipids which all had the property of squelching inflammatory oxidative injury. I dreamed of a formula, which as a supplement, might slow down or even stop this process.
This led to my first neuroceutical supplement formulation. After ten years in the clinic, a formal study was done of its benefits on memory. These highly positive effects were presented to the Society for Neuroscience (Summers WK, Martin RL, Cunningham M, DeBoynton VL, Marsh GM. Complex antioxidant blend improves memory in community-dwelling seniors. 2009 Society of Neuroscience Annual meeting. Abstract No. 886.19. 21 October 2009.)
Today, I realize that other doctors are interested in this area of research and are beginning to propose various supplements much like those I have been studying. I am a capitalist at heart, I believe that the trial process of comparing effectiveness of one formulation with another will best benefit the public. I also know from experience that this process will take years but ultimately will succeed for now we appear to be on the right track.
Possible Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease Part 1
by William K. Summers, M.D.