Study Finds Ultrasound May Reverse Alzheimer’s Symptoms

senior woman looking out the windowAlzheimer’s disease affects five million Americans and one in six women. Current treatments address individual symptoms and may slightly slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, but there is no cure. In fact, 500,000 people die from the condition each year.

An Australian study offers hope for a promising new treatment. The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, found that an ultrasound may help restore memory to people with Alzheimer’s.

A Noninvasive Treatment for Alzheimer’s?

People with Alzheimer’s experience a buildup of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. These plaques cluster along nerve cells, impeding the ability of neurons to communicate with one another. The plaques can also cause chronic inflammation that destroys surrounding nerve cells. Much Alzheimer’s research has concentrated on how to remove these plaques, but removing anything from the brain can be a dangerous undertaking.

Researchers theorized that ultrasound technology might activate microglial cells, a type of brain cell that forms the core of the brain’s immunological defense system. Using ultrasound waves to stimulate the brains of mice, researchers were able to achieve a reduction in brain plaques in 75% of the treated mice. Treated mice experienced such a significant improvement in brain function that they became indistinguishable from mice without the disease.

Research on mice doesn’t always pan out for humans, so there’s no guarantee this treatment will ever become available. The team that conducted the research plans to expand its model to other animals, but cautions that human trials are at least two years away. If all goes well, though, this could be a safe breakthrough for Alzheimer’s treatment. The study’s authors believe that their approach may also work with other neurodegenerative conditions, and may soon research how ultrasound technology could address conditions such as Parkinson’s.

References:

  1. Alzheimer’s facts and figures. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_facts_and_figures.asp
  2. Leinenga, G., and Götz, J. (2015). Scanning ultrasound removes amyloid-β and restores memory in an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Science Translational Medicine, 7(278), 278-233.
  3. Microglial function in the healthy brain. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://faculty.sites.uci.edu/kimgreen/bio/microglia-in-the-healthy-brain/
  4. More about plaques. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.alz.org/braintour/plaques.asp

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  • jenna

    jenna

    March 17th, 2015 at 10:31 AM

    What awesome news this could turn out to be for those who suffer from either Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease!

  • Yuri

    Yuri

    March 19th, 2015 at 3:51 AM

    Encouraging news
    is this just regular ultrasound technology
    or is there something different in this particular application that could be beneficial?

  • Judd F.

    Judd F.

    March 23rd, 2015 at 11:19 AM

    I would love to know if it might be in the works to start trials on humans or if this is something that is too far down the road for us to even anticipate yet.

    I know that there would likely be quite a number of volunteers willing to try it if this is something that they know they have the possibility of getting.

  • betsy

    betsy

    March 25th, 2015 at 4:00 PM

    As this is what killed my grandma I am always on the lookout for any new and promising news on the subject. This took years to come up with and could change so many lives so quickly. Push on with those studies because once you have seen how ruinous this disease is, you would never want this to happen to you or anyone that you love.

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