In the recent years, the possibility of treatment with molecular hydrogen for various diseases has accelerated. The research on using hydrogen as a medical therapy has progressed rapidly. According to current scientific literature, there is little doubt as to its effectiveness.
In this article, let us address the use of Hydrogen on Alzheimer’s disease. Before going into details of how hydrogen does this amazing work, let us first understand what Alzheimer’s disease is.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a neuro-degenerative disease where the brain slowly starts degenerating and dysfunctioning. It is the most common cause of dementia where the memory, language, mood and personality are impaired. It is usually seen in older people but it is not part of the normal process of aging.
What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?
When the brain cells start to fail, the patient will start losing his memory. Usually old memories are preserved. Patients with Alzheimer´s disease have difficulty in retaining new memories. Although many of us can’t remember recent events sometimes, people with Alzheimer´s won’t even realize they have forgotten things. This is because the brain cell in the part of the brain that is associated with learning has started to dysfunction. This will also lead to disorientation, confusion about place, time and events, mood and behaviour changes, unreasonable suspicions of family members and caregivers. When the disease progresses, patients may be unable to walk, talk or even swallow. Since patients with Alzheimer’s don’t recognize that they have a problem, many people present late when their friends and family get concerned.
Why does Alzheimer’s occur?
Scientists still don’t know the exact reason of developing this debilitating disease. It is believed that there is a genetic susceptibility which is causing the disease. Some other causes such as depression, hypertension and head injuries are also considered risk factors. There are several hypotheses regarding the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Apart from the genetic component, there is wide research suggesting that there is an oxidative stress component playing a part in the disease pathogenesis. It is evidenced by the increased oxidative stress markers seen in Alzheimer’s disease.
What are the abnormalities seen in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease?
There are mainly two pathological features seen in Alzheimer’s disease called plaques and tangles. They are responsible for killing the brain cells. Plaques consist of proteins called beta amyloid and they deposit between the nerve cells. Tangles consist of another protein called tau and they accumulate inside cells. These proteins play a major role in killing cells and impairing their ability to communicate with each other leading to symptoms like memory loss.
How do we prevent/cure Alzheimer’s disease?
We have to realize that there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. There is also not any proven ways to prevent this disease. Once the disease process starts, it progresses. The only way is to reduce the symptoms experienced by Alzheimer’s and lead a near normal life as much as possible. There are currently only a few drugs used to treat cognitive symptoms seen in Alzheimer’s disease. However most of these have side effects and their effect wanes after some time. This is where hydrogen comes in to play.
What is the basis of hydrogen for treating Alzheimer’s disease?
As mentioned above, there are many studies suggesting the oxidative stress effect seen in Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, antioxidant therapy is being promoted with many physicians suggesting using vitamin E and other foods containing antioxidants. However, most of the clinicians are unaware of the newest and the most potent antioxidant which is hydrogen. The anti-oxidative effect of hydrogen came into light after a research done in 2007 by Japanese scientists. Since then, there have been hundreds of researches done to determine its efficacy and safety. Reactive oxygen species created due to oxidative stress can give rise to chronic inflammation in the brain and lead to symptoms. Hydrogen can neutralize these oxygen free radicals without affecting other useful free radicals. Once it does its function, hydrogen is turned into water which is not toxic to the brain.
New researches show that hydrogen modifies gene expression. As a part of this action, it can increase the amounts of antioxidants, such as glutathione, and antioxidant enzymes inside the cells.
Another useful effect of hydrogen in treating these neuro-degenerative diseases is due to its diffusibility. Many drugs have difficulty crossing the blood brain barrier which guards the brain and reaching the brain in desired concentrations. But since hydrogen is a gas (the smallest of all gasmolecules), it can cross the blood brain barrier easily and exert its effects.
Reactive oxygen species are also produced in the mitochondrium inside the cells. The main task of mitochondria is the production of energy by formation of ATP. If the amount of reactive oxygen species exceeds a critical limit the mitochondrium can be damaged. Hydrogen can diffuse inside the cells and reach mitochondria leading to most effective control of oxygen free radicals.
It has been found that if used within recommended concentrations, there are absolutely no side effects with hydrogen use.
What are the scientific researches which used hydrogen to treat Alzheimer’s disease symptoms?
Currently, there are some researches which studied the direct effects of hydrogen in Alzheimer’s disease.
In one study by Li J et al. the scientists gave hydrogen rich saline to rats that had abeta amyloid plaques in the brain with neuronal inflammation. After injecting them with hydrogen rich saline, the scientists assessed their memory and motor dysfunction. Hydrogen was able to block inflammatory mediators such as IL – 6, TNF alpha and MDA. It was able to inhance LTP in the hippocampus of the brain which is usually blocked by amyloid plaques. (LTP is a major reflection of synaptic plasticity, involved in learning and memory function).
The researchers analyzed the cognitive function of the rats by using Morris water maze open field task and by electro physiological measurements. Hydrogen was able to reduce the amyloid induced neuronal inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain lead to improvement in cognitive symptoms such as memory function.
According to Wang C et al., hydrogen rich saline was able to reduce amyloid-beta (Aβ) induced oxidative stress and neuronal inflammation in a rat model. The rats were injected with hydrogen saline for 10 days and their oxidative mediators were checked. It was found that they had reduced inflammatory and oxidative stress mediators than before. The mechanism for this change was thought to be due to genetic modulation by hydrogen. Nuclear factor - Kappa B and JNK (a special kinase-enzyme) were believed to be attenuated.
In another research by Gu and colleagues, using mouse that had age related (senescence) accelerated cell death, were given hydrogen rich water to be drunk as they wished for 30 days. The treatment with hydrogen water for 30 days prevented age-related declines in cognitive ability and was associated with increased brain serotonin levels and elevated serum antioxidant activity. When they were further given hydrogen rich water for 18 weeks, it was found that their hippocampus had lower degeneration when compared to mice that didn’t drink hydrogen rich water.
There are so many researches underway for determining the effectiveness of hydrogen but it can be assumed that hydrogen can benefit Alzheimer’s patients by buying them some more time by reducing its symptoms.
A study that examined the hydrogen concentration in rat tissue after administration of hydrogen via various routes has shown that the highest concentrations of hydrogen were found in the muscle and in the brain after inhalation of hydrogen compared to other modes of administration such as oral, intravenous and intraperitonal application of hydrogen super-rich water. These results suggest that inhalation of hydrogen could be the most effective form of hydrogen administration in case of neurodegenerative diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer´s disease.
Hydrogen can be the next biggest breakthrough in controlling Alzheimer’s disease symptoms as it is cheap (once you buy an electrolyser, there are only low additional costs of preparing hydrogen) compared to most drugs which can cost a fortune.
- What is Alzheimer's?. (2017). Alzheimer's association. Retrieved 31 October 2017, from https://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp
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