Posted in Blog, Health News on March 13, 2015
A revolutionary Australian study was recently published in the journal Science Translational Medicine discussing a newly found therapy to potentially combat Alzheimer’s disease and its devastating effect on memory.
The researchers heading the study at the University of Queensland in Brisbane were not expecting such powerful results when they first decided to use a focused ultrasound technique to destroy plaque growths on the brain in lab mice. Beta-amyloid plaques are commonly associated with Alzheimer’s and the plaque’s growth in the brain is correlated with increased memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients (though whether the plaques cause Alzheimer’s or result from Alzheimer’s is unknown).
Götz, Leinenga and their team at the University of Queensland genetically altered mice so that they would develop increased amounts of beta-amyloid plaques. The altered mice then underwent various tests to measure their memory performance (such as maze learning). After using ultrasound therapy to carefully destroy the plaque buildup in the mice brains, a significant improvement was observed in the animals’ memory and test performance. Test performance in mice that had the ultrasound therapy for just 2 weeks were comparable to test performance in mice without beta-amyloid plaque buildup.
The ultrasound technique used in the experiment is thought to be largely non-invasive and extremely effective. The plaque was completely destroyed in 3/4th’s of the affected mice and the researchers claimed no apparent damage to the brain in the process of targeting the growths. Although the study’s results were both exciting and promising, further research is imperative prior to assuming that this technique is safe in the long-term. More experimentation is also necessary to ensure that the targeted ultrasound technique can be extended to humans, who have a thicker skull engulfing a larger brain as compared with mice.
The direct cause-effect relationship between Beta-amyloid plaques and Alzheimer’s still remains a mystery. However, this new research is a promising step forward in the ultimate battle against Alzheimer’s disease.