Alzheimer’s Disease is characterized by a rapid and debilitating loss of memory and cognitive ability, however a groundbreaking clinical study by Australian researchers is promising to revolutionize the way we treat sufferers.
Researchers at Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) at the University of Queensland have come up with a very promising solution for using non-invasive ultrasound technology.
It clears the brain of neurotoxic amyloid plaques (the structures that are responsible for memory loss and a decline in cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients).
Alzheimer’s disease is generally the result of a build-up of two types of lesions – amyloid plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles. Amyloid plaques are found between the neurons and end up as thick clusters of beta-amyloid molecules – an oily, sticky protein that clumps together and forms plaques.
Neurofibrillary tangles are most commonly found within the neurons of the brain. They’re caused by defective tau proteins that clump together and from a thick indissoluble mass. This results in tiny filaments called microtubules to get all twisted, disrupting the transportation of essential materials such as nutrients and organelles along them. Just like twisting a straw when your sipping your juice.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects over 50 million worldwide. It has always been a race to figure out how best form of treatment, starting with how to clear the build-up of defective beta-amyloid and tau proteins from a patient’s brain. Now a team from the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) at the University of Queensland have come up with a great solution for removing the former.
Publishing in Science Translational Medicine, the team explains the Focused Therapeutic UltrasoundTechnique. It is a a particular type of ultrasound which non-invasively beams sound waves into the brain tissue. By oscillating the waves super-fast, they are able to gently open up the blood-brain barrier, which is a layer that protects the brain against bacteria, and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to activate. Microglila cells are the brain’s waste-removal cells, so they’re able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps that are responsible for the most debilitating symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
The team can boast amazing results. They report the full restoration of the memory function of 75 percent of the mice they tested it on, with zero damage to the surrounding brain tissue!
The treated mice were found to display improved memory performance in three tasks – a maze, a test to recognise new objects, and one to remember the places they should avoid.
“We’re extremely excited by this innovation of treating Alzheimer’s without using drug therapeutics,” one of the team, Jürgen Götz, said in a press statement. “The word ‘breakthrough’ is often misused, but in this case I think this really does fundamentally change our understanding of how to treat this disease, and I foresee a great future for this approach.”
The team are planning trials with higher animal models, such as sheep and pigs, and hope to get their human trials underway in 2017.
Watch this great video on how ultrasound can be used to help treat alzheimer’s: