Blood-brain barrier typically protects the brain, but is also quite a bit of a challenge for scientists trying to create therapies for neurological conditions. Drugs that should act on the brain struggle to pass this barrier.
Now scientists at The University of Queensland have found that an ultrasound therapy could be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease without the need to cross the blood-brain barrier.
Alzheimer’s disease is the primary cause of age-related dementia. Millions of people are suffering from it in the world. As the Western society is ageing quickly, it is likely that we will see a spike in Alzheimer’s cases. This disease is incurable and progresses over the years destroying a person’s brain mass and cognitive abilities. Scientists are looking for a potential drug candidate that would cross that blood-brain barrier and act on affected spots in the brain. However, ultrasound is an interesting alternative idea, which doesn’t even require crossing that barrier.
Scientists found that low-intensity ultrasound effectively restored cognition without opening the barrier in mice models. Typically an ultrasound therapy like this would require small gas-filled bubbles to open the almost-impenetrable blood-brain barrier. But now researchers found that ultrasound can be used effectively without the barrier-opening microbubbles. This means that ultrasound therapy could be a non-invasive method to treat Alzheimer’s without breaking the blood-brain barrier. In fact, scientists were surprised by the remarkable restoration in cognition in test mice.
Previous studies showed that ultrasound is safe to use and doesn’t cause any adverse side effects. Researchers found that pathological changes and cognitive deficits could be improved with this therapy. Professor Jürgen Götz, lead author of the study, said: “Using ultrasound could enhance cognition independently of clearing amyloid and tau, which form plaques and tangles in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Microbubbles will continue to be used in combination with ultrasound in ongoing Alzheimer’s research.” Scientists are planning to take these findings and new information and launch some clinical trials.
Ultrasound could be an easy non-invasive therapy for Alzheimer’s patients. It could alleviate some symptoms and maybe even slow down the progression of the disease. Scientists have hope that cognitive function can be preserved in this way. However, it is not going to be a cure for Alzheimer’s. While there are some breakthroughs in this area, the real cure is years or maybe decades away.
Source: University of Queensland