Can harnessing radio waves boost human longevity?

Radio frequency technology that shows promise in Alzheimer’s treatment is now being explored for its potential in longevity.

Back in 2010, researchers at the University of South Florida’s Alzheimer’s Institute conducted a study exploring the potential negative impact of radio frequency waves on the brain. At the time, the use of cell phones was becoming ubiquitous, and there were concerns that the impact of RF waves could be detrimental to human health.

The scientists exposed transgenic mice with Alzheimer’s to RF waves, expecting to find that cognitive decline was accelerated, but were surprised to find that the opposite happened – the mice were protected from further deterioration and even had their cognitive impairment reversed if they were in older age. The subsequent paper in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease created headlines around the world.

The researchers behind that study went on to develop an approach dubbed Transcranial Radiofrequency Wave Treatment (TRFT) and created a head-worn product called the MemorEM, which received Breakthrough Device designation from the US FDA as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s in humans. Today, the lead scientist behind the technology, former University of South Florida Research professor Gary Arendash, has embarked on a new venture that aims to demonstrate TRFT can also extend human healthspan and longevity.

Longevity.Technology: Having demonstrated the ability of TRFT to stop and reverse cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s patients in several studies, Dr Arendash recently founded a new enterprise called RF Longevity to expand clinical studies into increasing healthy longevity in humans. The new enterprise’s focus on longevity is driven by recent study data, which indicated that the treatment has a “rebalancing” effect on the immune system, potentially helping reduce the chronic inflammation that is associated with many age-related diseases. To learn more, we caught up with Arendash, founder of RF Longevity.

Arendash begins by revealing his personal “litmus test” for determining if a therapeutic is a serious candidate for extending human longevity.

“First, I think it should have completed at least one clinical trial involving a major disease of aging,” he says. “Second, it should show clear evidence of clinical benefit and, finally, it should have no significant side effects. I believe TRFT meets all these criteria and thus should be considered a gerotherapeutic front-runner for extending human longevity.”

Results in humans all that matters

Despite the small size of the Alzheimer’s pilot studies in humans, Arendash says that showing any benefit at all in humans is significant – given the history.

“Over the decades, there have been many interventions that provided cognitive benefit in animal models of Alzheimer’s, but none of them ended up being successful at stopping or reversing cognitive decline in human clinical trials,” he says. “The huge Alzheimer’s research engine has been very successful in preventing and treating the disease in mice, but not in humans. This is why I believe a demonstration of clinical benefits in humans, no matter how small the group of subjects, is much more meaningful than many studies involving cell cultures or animal models.”

Dr Gary Arendash is the founder of RF Longevity

In the years following the initial breakthrough mouse study, Arendash and his colleagues continued to study the effects of the technology, publishing six papers in five years as they sought to uncover the disease modifying mechanisms at play.

“The first of which, and we verified this in our human studies, is that TRFT induces disaggregation of toxic proteins in the brain that are associated with most neurodegenerative diseases,” he says, referring to beta amyloid and tau. “But we also then saw mitochondrial enhancement in the brains of these Alzheimer’s mice, and we later saw it in PET scans in our Alzheimer’s patients as well. This is interesting from a longevity perspective, because a major issue in aging in general is a decrease in energy production, especially in the brain.”

Rebalancing the immune system

But the most compelling longevity observation from Arendash’s perspective was based on data from the pilot studies in humans, which showed that treatment with TRFT has a rebalancing effect on the immune systems of Alzheimer’s patients.

“This is really important, because most age-related diseases, be they in the brain or elsewhere in the body involve inflammation,” he says. “When we are young, our pro-inflammatory cytokines and anti-inflammatory cytokines are in balance, but, as we age, that balance is lost, and there becomes a predominance of the pro-inflammatory cytokines resulting in increased inflammation. We showed that two months of daily TRFT treatment rebalanced levels for 11 of 12 cytokines in the blood of Alzheimer’s patients, which was also associated with a dramatic decrease in both brain and body inflammation and reversal of their cognitive impairment.”

Arendash believes that although TRFT is currently administered only to the head, it influences the whole body because 20% of our blood passes through the brain every minute.

“TRFT appears to change the dynamics in red blood cell membranes to rejuvenate the immune system in human blood plasma, so it beneficially affects both the brain and the body,” he says.

 “We showed we can stop and reverse Alzheimer’s disease in a variety of cognitive measures and markers in both the brain and blood. That’s major, because there’s no therapeutic out there that I’m aware of that can stop this disease or reverse it. And I think that’s a big reason why we got the FDA’s first breakthrough device designation for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Sights set on longevity studies

Armed with this data, Arendash founded RF Longevity to capitalize on TRFT’s potential to contribute to an increase in healthy human longevity. He suggests the technology has the potential to reduce risk and severity of age-related diseases in addition to Alzheimer’s, as well as targeting several damaging processes in brain and body that arise during aging itself. The company is now on a mission to identify funds to conduct studies designed to measure the impact of TRFT treatment on human longevity.

The MemorEM device is bioengineered to administer radio waves throughout the brain

“The plan is to conduct longitudinal five-month and five-year Phase IIb/III controlled clinical trials of TRFT in normal aged individuals,” he says. “These clinical trials would aim to determine if TRFT treatment can reduce the occurrence and severity of age-related diseases, reverse biologic age, improve cognition, decrease inflammation, and extend healthspan. I believe TRFT could prove to be an inherently safe, non-invasive way to extend healthy human life span and to maintain the brain’s immense abilities into old age.”

While Arendash has previously secured NIH grant funding for his work in Alzheimer’s, he explains that RF Longevity will need to secure funding from different sources.

“NIH doesn’t provide funding for longevity studies, which is why the company I founded [NeuroEM Therapeutics] is moving forward with the primary indication of Alzheimer’s, to get FDA approved,” he says. “But I want to start the longevity studies with TRFT immediately, which I really believe stand the best chance of success at the present time.”

“Although we only have data from eight patients, they are patients who have shown consistent and large changes in so many key areas, and in a total of five clinical studies. To me, eight patients easily trump 10,000 mice. Of course, I wish we had more, and that’s what I want to do – identify the modest funds needed to get these longevity studies going today!”

About the MemorEM device

The head-worn MemorEM device is bioengineered to administer radio waves throughout the brain. The studies conducted to date have required patients to wear the device for one hour per day, although Arendash says that the beneficial effects on cognition were maintained for weeks, and even months, post-treatment, so continual daily treatments appear not to be necessary. 

While bathing your head in RF waves may sound unsettling to some, Arendash says that safety has always been his priority.

“We’re using a very specific, very narrow frequency range, about one gigahertz, which is considered very safe,” he says. “It also appears to be the best frequency for treating the brain – if you go higher than that frequency wise, you get less penetration into the brain, if you go lower, the waves just go right through the brain without affecting very much. One gigahertz is basically the sweet spot – the Goldilocks zone, if you will.”

The MemorEM device is currently only for use in clinical trials and is not yet available commercially.

Photographs courtesy of RF Longevity.

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