Alzheimer’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.
- Alzheimer’s facts and figures. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_facts_and_figures.asp
- 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.
- Microglial function in the healthy brain. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://faculty.sites.uci.edu/kimgreen/bio/microglia-in-the-healthy-brain/
- More about plaques. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.alz.org/braintour/plaques.asp
© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.