A few months ago, we reported on an innovative creation from Israeli firm, Neurokeeper. The company has developed a portable device that’s able to detect a person’s risk of suffering from a stroke.
Well, it turns out the Israelis are pretty prominent in this area, as doctors at the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Tel Aviv have hit on a significant new discovery.
More specifically, hyperbaric oxygen.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s basically pure oxygen. It’s used in hyperbaric oxygen treatment, where patients enter a pressurized chamber and breathe pure oxygen.
Because the air pressure in these chambers is up to three times higher than normal air pressure, the body sucks in more oxygen. This speeds the healing process – and, in turn, recovery time.
First used in the 1960s, the therapy is widely used to cure decompression sickness and a variety of other injuries that require faster healing (ones that affect sports players, for example).
It’s also used to treat stroke victims. But the Israeli team has uncovered a remarkable improvement to the process…
Oxygen Rush: A Damaged Brain’s Wake-Up Call
In addition to being used on recent stroke victims, tests have revealed that hyperbaric oxygen treatment is even proving effective on patients who suffered strokes up to 20 years ago.
The fact that intensive, concentrated oxygen therapy can reawaken parts of the brain previously considered untreatable for so long is a major breakthrough.
The discovery is so significant, it’s even surprised Dr. Shah Efrati, head of R&D and the hyperbaric unit at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center: “I have been taught in medical school that such neuroplasticity [the brain’s ability to recover from trauma]so late after the acute injury cannot happen, but we see it.”
Together with scientists from the University of Tel Aviv, Efrati and his team are now treating 70 stroke patients with “metabolically dysfunctional” regions of the brain. Patients whose brains doctors have always believed were permanently damaged.
And they’re blasting these areas with a 10-fold spike of oxygen to stimulate electrical signals in brain neurons.
According to Efrati, “The cells in this location… have enough energy to stay alive, but don’t have the energy needed for action potential – for full activity – and this is where hyperbaric treatment can help… With the hyperbaric therapy, when the metabolic function is being regained, the patient can speak again, and if it’s the motor area of the hand, then the hand will start moving years after the acute injury, which is something that was unbelievable to me.”
One patient whose brain damage left her unable to read and with memory loss calls the hyperbaric oxygen treatment “amazing… a miracle.”
Another has regained the ability to walk and talk, following the therapy.
According to the American Heart Association, 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke every year. But Efrati believes his intensive hyperbaric oxygen treatment could help many stroke patients who believe it’s too late for further treatment.
He also says the ability to repair damaged cells could help improve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers.