75% of mice that received the treatment regained their memory.
Neurotoxic amyloid plaques are thought to be the primary cause of memory loss and cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients. A non-invasive ultrasound technology that has been pioneered by Australian researchers clears brain of these plaques.
Alzheimer’s patients usually have two types of lesions in their brain, amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Both of these lesions prevent the proper transfer of information between and through the neurons of the brain.
Amyloid plaque rests between the neurons, forming dense clusters of beta-amyloid molecules that stick together to form the plaque. By sitting between the neurons, these plaque block the transmission of information between neurons.
Neurofibrillary tangles actually sit inside the neurons. Caused by defective tau proteins that create an insoluble mass which then blocks the transmission of nutrients through length of the neuron.
Research has shown the clear correlation between the these lesions and Alzheimer’s disease and with 50 million people worldwide affected by the disease, a race to find the best treatment options is on the way. This team from the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland might be in the lead.
Their study published in Science Translational Medicine, describes their technique using a focused therapeutic ultrasound, sending non-invasively beamed sounded waves into the brain tissue. Using a super-fast oscillation, these sound waves open up the blood-brain barrier and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to activate. Microglila cells then go in and clear the toxic beta-amyloid clumps which are thought to be responsible for the worst symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
An incredible 75% of mice gained fully restored memory function with zero damage to the surrounding brain tissue. They also found the treated mice had improved performance in three memory tests, a maze, object recognition and remembering places to 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 release. “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 next step is the start trials on higher animal models like, sheep and if all goes well, human trials by 2017.