TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Alzheimer's patient Janet Sizeler says a blue cap is changing her life.
"I know I feel better wearing the hat," she said. "I don't feel hopeless. I don't feel so depressed. I have more energy. I actually feel normal."
Janet was diagnosed with the disease six years ago. For two hours a day, the MemorEM device beams cell phone waves into her brain.
"It sounds crazy, I admit. But with this disease, it's so horrible that those of us who take care of our spouses, we'll try anything, I mean just about anything," offered Larry Sizeler, Janet's husband.
He says Janet's tried other experimental treatments and believes this one is working. "I was surprised, very much so, tremendously so, nicely so."
Its effect was also a surprise to researcher Gary Arendash. In 2010, he welcomed us into his James Haley Tampa V.A. lab, where he exposed Alzheimer's mice to the equivalent of decades of cell phone waves.
There, we saw cages of mice stacked around an antenna.
"We know by getting the distance between the antenna and the cages that the mice are getting the same amount of cell phone exposure as a human head does," Arendash explained at the time.
While Arendash expected the mice would get worse, they instead got better and remembered how to swim through a maze.
"I must admit, when we started, we were afraid to publish the work," he said. "It took a couple of years actually to get enough data to say, ‘Hey, this is the real effect.'"
That effect comes from embedded antennas within the cap emitting electromagnetic waves at speeds of 200 cycles per second. Arendash says, after two months, participants in the first-of-its-kind human trial did better on tests.
Using MRIs, they didn't see any brain bleeds or evidence of adverse effects.
Dr. Amanda Smith, who directs clinical research at the University of South Florida's Byrd Alzheimer's Institute, participated in the study and says she likes to take everything with a little bit of caution. Although their study was encouraging, it was too small to prove it works.
Over the years she's seen many drugs that worked in mice but failed in humans.
"A mouse blood brain barrier is like Swiss cheese. It lets a lot of things flow through," she explained. "And ours is kind of like Fort Knox. So nothing gets in."
In this study, brain scans and spinal fluid tests indicate this treatment may be different.
Because USF holds a stake in the patent, Smith says she was extremely careful that the samples were processed blindly, giving her added confidence in the results.
Larry believes Janet is improving. "She is becoming more normalized, there's no question. She is remembering restaurants, which she never remembered. Didn't know what food she ate the previous night; now she does."
Janet is still able to use the cap because she's now participating in an extension of the clinical trial.
"If they try to take my hat away from me, there's going to be a battle," she laughed. "I feel that strongly about it."