An extraordinarily promising new technique using ultrasound to clear the toxic protein clumps thought to cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is moving to the first phase of human trials next year. The innovative treatment has proven successful across several animal tests and presents an exciting, drug-free way to potentially battle dementia.
The ultrasound treatment was first developed back in 2015 at the University of Queensland. The initial research was working to find a way to use ultrasound to temporarily open the blood-brain barrier with the goal of helping dementia-battling antibodies better reach their target in the brain. However, early experiments with mice surprisingly revealed the targeted ultrasound waves worked to clear toxic amyloid protein plaques from the brain without any additional therapeutic drugs.
“The ultrasound waves oscillate tremendously quickly, activating microglial cells that digest and remove the amyloid plaques that destroy brain synapses,” explained Jürgen Götz, one of the researchers on the project back in 2015. “The word ‘breakthrough’ is often mis-used, 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.”