A team of researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) at the University of Queensland in Australia have discovered a revolutionary treatment method against Alzheimer’s disease. The treatment, a non-invasive ultrasound, clears blockages in the brain made up of neurotic amyloid plaques which are the structures responsible for a decline in cognitive function and memory.
Alzheimerâ€™s disease is a result the build up of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, both two separate kinds of lesions, in the brain. Amyloid plaques form between brain neurons, becoming dense clusters of beta-amyloid molecules. These clusters are a sticky protein that clumps and forms plaques. Neurofibrillary tangles are found within the neurons themselves. They are created by defective tau proteins that bunch into a thick, insoluble mass. As a result, tiny filaments, called microtubules, get twisted, which in turn disrupts the transportation of essential material, such as nutrients and organelles.
There are no vaccines or preventative measures against Alzheimerâ€™s disease. Researchers have been focusing on treatments that break up the blockages of defective beta-amyloid and tau proteins. Using a specific type of ultrasound called a focused, therapeutic ultrasound, soundwaves are transmitted into the tissue of the brain. The soundwaves oscillate at top speed, effectively opening up the blood brain barrier, a layer that protects the brain against bacteria, and stimulating microglial cells into action. Microglia are essentially the garbagemen of the brain. They are waste-removing cells that break down the clusters of beta-amyloids.
The researchers at QBI have successfully tested this method on mice, who showed a 75 percent memory function increase, with zero damage to the brain tissue. The mice showed memory improvement in three tasks; a maze, a recognition test, and a test requiring them to remember places to avoid. According to JÃ¼rgen GÃ¶tz, who published a press release on behalf of QBI, “Weâ€™re extremely excited by this innovation of treating Alzheimerâ€™s without using drug therapeutics. The word â€˜breakthroughâ€™ 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 QBI has received approval to expand the study, and conduct research using sheep. Human trials are anticipated in 2017.