Ultrasound Treatment for Alzheimer’s Proves Effective in Mice

senior woman getting ultrasound treatmentResearchers from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, have discovered a new method to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in mice using ultrasound technology. The six-week study found that treating the mice with ultrasound waves resulted in a reduction of amyloid-beta plaque along with an improvement in cognitive performance.

The study was completed using mice that were genetically bred to be predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease, meaning the mice exhibited some signs of the disease, such as the build-up of amyloid-beta plaque in the brain. Researchers put the mice to sleep and injected them with tiny gas bubbles to make the ultrasound waves more effective. They treated half of the mice by directing ultrasound waves at the brain; the untreated half was the control group. The cognitive abilities of the mice were assessed by observing their ability to navigate a maze along with behavioral and memory tests. Lastly, brains of the mice were examined.

The ultrasound treatment proved effective in reducing the amount of plaque in the brain; the area of the brain’s cortex region in the treated mice contained 56% less plaques than the control group. In addition, the ultrasound-treated mice performed better on the behavioral and memory tests.

Jürgen Götz, director of University of Queensland’s Clem Jones Centre for Aging Dementia Research and one of the researchers in this study, explained that the ultrasound treatment worked by temporarily opening the blood-brain barrier, which separates the brain tissue from the rest of the body. As the barrier opens, it allows for the protein albumin to enter into the brain, enhancing the effectiveness of microglial cells. Microglial cells work as the first line of immune defense by removing toxins from the brain such as amyloid-beta plaques. By boosting their effectiveness, microglia were able to clear out more of the plaque, resulting in better cognitive performance in the treated mice.

In previous studies, researchers have used ultrasound treatment in combination with drugs so that they may more easily enter the brain. By examining ultrasound waves alone, they were able to see how the simple process can positively impact the brain. As there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, researchers continue to explore a variety of treatment options, and although it is early in testing, this is another potentially groundbreaking treatment method.

Ultrasound waves could be a new, therapeutic approach to treating symptoms of Alzheimer’s but can also cause brain tissue damage in high frequencies. For now, it has no clear advantage over pharmaceutical drugs that can clear out plaques without causing tissue damage, although it could be used to bolster the effects of approved drugs.

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