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Ultrasounds May Remove Plaque and Protein, What This Means for Alzheimer’s Treatments

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One of the latest avenues of Alzheimer’s research is the exploration of ultrasound therapy. According to research published this year, ultrasound technology may have the ability to stimulate immune cells in the brain to target and destroy harmful amyloid beta proteins. As a leading provider of Alzheimer’s care in North Houston, we hope families and their loved ones will find value in the following information.

The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, used non-invasive ultrasound therapy to clear toxic amyloid plaques from the brain. These plaques are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s, and they are responsible for cognitive decline and memory loss. Alzheimer’s is generally the result of a build-up of amyloid plaques as well as neurofibrillary tangles. Amyloid plaques are found between neurons and develop into sticky, thick clusters. Neurofibrillary tangles, on the other hand, are located in the neurons and caused by defective tau proteins that form clumps. These clumps disrupt the brain’s ability to transport nutrients and information.

A team of researchers from the Queensland Brain Institute in Australia sought a way to clear these harmful proteins from the brain. The team used a specific kind of ultrasound known as a focused therapeutic ultrasound to send sound waves into the brain. These sound waves were able to open the blood-brain barrier, a protective layer around the brain that makes it difficult for medication to reach the brain. Once this barrier was open, the ultrasound waves stimulated the brain’s microglial (immune) cells to activate. Microglial cells are responsible for removing dead and defective cells from the brain.

According to the study, the ultrasound therapy fully restored memory function to 75 percent of mice involved in the study with no damage to surrounding brain tissue. Treated mice showed improved performance in three separate memory tests and performed as well as disease-free mice.

Decades of research and billions of dollars have failed to produce a drug that can reduce amyloid plaques in the brain. While some drugs can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, these plaques eventually develop and harden over time. This study has electrified the Alzheimer’s research community as it has shown that a safe and non-invasive treatment has the ability to clear amyloid plaques and effectively cure mice of dementia. While the exact mechanism is still unknown, researchers hope the ultrasound treatment can be translated to humans. If the treatment does work for people, ultrasound therapy will be a fast and affordable solution.

The team is planning to begin trials with higher order animals like sheep with human trials expected to begin in 2017.
Meeting the care needs of a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s can be challenging without the right support in place. For additional resources, turn to Home Care Assistance, the trusted provider of elderly care in North Houston. Our experienced and compassionate caregivers can help with routine tasks at home and provide transportation, mobility support, and companionship. Our memory care services also include the use of the Cognitive Therapeutics Method, designed to help senior stave off cognitive decline and maintain mental acuity. To learn more, please call 832-412-1345.