HAMNET Report 24 December 2017

The Philippines have been hammered by Tropical Cyclone TEMBIN-17, since Tuesday, and landslides and flooding have claimed many lives. The storm has winds of about 225kph, which have battered the Southern Islands of Philippines, and are now threatening Vietnam as I write this. The tropical storm left more than 133 people dead and 50000 others displaced, mostly due to landslides, and damaged more than 10,000 houses in the central Philippines before weakening and blowing into the South China Sea. The storm drenched Quezon province, on the southern tip of northern Luzon island.

Here’s a good news story from the weekly ARRL Letter of the 21st December. Inveterate inventor and radio amateur Eric Knight, KB1EHE, may be on the cusp of medical history as a device he developed in collaboration with a prominent Alzheimer’s disease researcher enters clinical trials this month. Both are hoping that the device, which essentially saturates the brain with low levels of RF, may prove to be a viable treatment for the dreaded disease affecting millions.

“Sometimes breakthroughs happen in ways that are unexpected,” Knight told ARRL.

Knight learned of experiments that world-renowned Alzheimer’s researcher Dr. Gary Arendash was carrying out on mice specially bred to have the disease, exposing them to low levels of RF. Knight said the effects were dramatic, sometimes even reversing the disease’s effects in the mice. Borrowing some concepts from his early experiments with small rockets and avionics, he set about developing, and later patented, a device that could provide the requisite RF exposure to the human head”In the early 2000s, we were trying to figure out then how to make antennas that would wrap around the airframes of the rockets we were designing,” he said, noting that the diameter of his group’s space vehicle was about the same as that of a human head.

Knight learned that Arendash was attempting to extend his investigations in a similar vein, and eventually they collaborated.”He came at it from mice and science, I came at it from an aerospace and hobby perspective,” said Knight, who patented a device based on a bicycle-type helmet. At the same time, Arendash was developing a similar wearable — a fabric cap resembling an old-time aviator’s headgear. Both devices are embedded with small antennas to bathe the brain in electromagnetic radiation in the 900 MHz spectrum set aside for Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) applications — some 100 MHz higher than a cell phone’s frequency.

“Ironic for sure,” Knight said. “Who would imagine that cell phone radio waves could be a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease?”

Knight, who has no medical background, said the device to be used in the clinical trials consists of the cap plus a palm-sized transmitter and wiring harness worn on the arm. The resulting combination has been dubbed the NeuroEM 1000. Participants will get doses of RF twice a day.

From the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) standpoint, the clinical trials aim primarily to show that the technology is safe, but Knight said he and Arendash are also looking for data that might demonstrate that the device could be beneficial in treating Alzheimer’s. The protocol they’ve developed goes further than what the FDA requires and includes before-and-after baseline data, with cognitive testing, assays of spinal fluid and blood, and PET scans.

“The hope is that there is a tiny bit of efficacy. Then we can work to refine it,” Knight said, adding, “No one is expecting a magic cure.”

Thank you to the ARRL for that story.

As this edition of the HAMNET Report goes to print, we have just heard the sad news of the passing of that great stalwart of communications assistance in the Western Cape for many decades, Bernie Crockford, ZS1BW (usually referred to as “ZS1BoereWors”). Bernie had that magnificent way of being everyone’s “Elmer”, and he never rejected pleas for help with communications. He was also renowned for his “boer-maak-‘n-plan” way of creating all sorts of wizard gadgets and little projects that he would proudly show at meetings, astonishing all with his creativity. He has been in poor health for some years now, and off the air, but his sense of humour and presence will continue to be felt, even if he is not physically with us. Our sincere condolences to his wife Sylvia and his family. Rest in peace, Bernie.

The HAMNET year has wound down, and, apart from rescues taking place in various locations which require radio comms standby, the average HAMNET member is sitting back, and basking in the knowledge that he put his experience to use during the year, providing safety and efficacy to a variety of sporting events. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all of you, on behalf of the National and Regional Directors, for your volunteerism and dedication during the year. I’d also like to thank the Directors on your behalf, for their willingness to get stuck in to the dirty work of keeping the regions running. There are many people around the country, who would have been far worse off now, if it weren’t for all your willing assistance and helping hands. I hope that you will all have a brilliant holiday, and Merry Christmas, where appropriate, and a rejuvenation which will keep the spark of enthusiasm going in 2018. No matter in which way the electronics revolution moves, there will always be a place for men and women to come to the party and assist when communications are needed. Please be one of them!

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.