​Focused ultrasound treats Alzheimer's disease

Scientists from West Virginia University have shown that exposure to focused ultrasound on a specific part of the brain triggers an immune response that has the desired therapeutic effect in patients with Alzheimer's disease. The work was published in the journal Radiology.
Previously, researchers from West Virginia University were able to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) of three patients' brains for about 24 hours. Their achievement was an important discovery in the treatment of various brain diseases since the barrier prevents not only pathogens but also drugs from entering the brain. The goal of the new research was to develop a simple method to target the right parts of the brain.
To do this, the specialists used focused ultrasound to cross the blood-brain barrier in three patients aged 61, 72, and 73 with early-stage Alzheimer's disease. Contrast-enhanced MRI was used to assess the effectiveness of the treatment, which was to detect major changes in the studied brain regions. Ultrasound was aimed at the hippocampus, which plays an important role in learning and memory function.
The scientists first noted an increase in contrast in the target areas, indicating an accurate and immediate opening of the HEB. In addition, they found that the dye moved along the draining veins after the procedure. This pattern indicated the possible presence of a glymphatic system in the brain, which regulates fluid movement and removes waste from the body. MRI analysis suggested that there might be an immunological healing response around the draining veins after the procedure.
In this experiment, the researchers did not use additional drugs. They estimated that ultrasound alone was sufficient to trigger an immune response. None of the subjects experienced any side effects. If the therapy proves to be effective and safe in clinical trials, dementia patients will have hope for a simple and effective treatment for neurodegeneration.

March 2, 2021, 10:57 a.m.

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