A recent study performed on mice showed that ultrasound therapy might be an effective Alzheimer’s treatment. With the help of ultrasounds, scientists successfully removed brain plaques and enhanced the mice’s memory.
The research was conducted on mice, genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer’s. The animals were anesthetized and injected with a solution that contained gas bubbles which help ultrasounds be more effective.
The mice were divided into two groups. One was treated with ultrasound waves that were aimed at their brains and the other was used as a control group, meaning those mice did not receive any kind of treatment.
All the tiny participants had to go through a series of tests that assessed behavior and memory. The mice’s ability to navigate through a maze was also tested. After that, their brains were examined. They found that the mice treated with ultrasound had a 56% smaller brain area occupied by plaques and performed better at behavioral tests in comparison to those from the control group.
Jürgen Götz, one of the scientists involved in the study and also director of the University of Queensland’s Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research explained how ultrasound therapy is beneficial as it temporarily opens the blood-brain barrier, thus isolating brain tissue from the rest of the body.
This process permits the protein albumin to penetrate brain tissue and stimulate the function of a certain brain cell called microglia that eliminates cerebral toxic proteins. Götz further explained that the microglia is able to break apart the amyloid proteins which form plaques.
Although showing promising results, trials performed on mice can be difficult to repeat on humans so it is still uncertain whether ultrasounds would have the same effect on people as they did on mice. The beginning is encouraging nonetheless.
Drugs developed for the same purpose, to remove plaque, have had minimal results during human Alzheimer’s trials, failing to improve memory or cognition capabilities in participants.
The team explained that their study “highlights the potential of [ultrasound] treatment as a therapeutic approach for Alzheimer’s and possibly other diseases involving protein aggregation”. They plan is to further study the effect of ultrasounds on larger animals such as sheep.
Human testing might prove to be more complicated because human brain and cognition are much more intricate. Another issue is the thickness of human skulls, making it difficult for ultrasound waves to penetrate.
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