Researchers from the Queensland Brain Institute at the University of Queensland, led by Prof Gotz and his colleague Dr Leinenga, announced that they have made a breakthrough in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimers is a  neuro degenerative condition that affects millions of people. It is thought to be caused by Beta-amyloid, a protein fragment, that clumps together in the brain as we age, forming plaques that accumulate in the spaces between the neurons. It is thought that the plaques interfere with communication between the neurons, which leads to cognitive decline and memory loss. The team tested a new non invasive ultrasound technology , directed ultrasound ( SUS) that seemed to restore memory in mouse models.

Several studies have been done to look at drugs that can combat beta-amyloid build-up in the brain and there has been some successes in this field of study. However this new technique doesn’t involve any drugs.

The team used repeated directed scanning ultrasound ( SUS) on the brain to temporarily open the blood brain barrier. In the mouse models the technique was effective in clearing the beta amyloid plaques in 75% of the treated mice. The ultrasound waves oscillate quickly, activating cells that digest and remove the plaques. Following the treatment they gave the mice memory tasks and their memory levels were restored to levels seen in normal mice.

The study authors concluded that “repeated SUS is useful in removing beta-amyloid in the mouse brain without causing overt damage and should be explored further as a non invasive method with treatment potential in Alzheimer’s disease’

The team will now further evaluate the findings and also do studies to see whether the technique will be helpful in restoring executive functions such as decision making and motor control.

Prof Gotz commented that he foresees great potential for this new treatment. Lets hope that he is right and that there might finally be some hope for treating this debilitating disease.