In what could be a game changing discovery for the treatment of Alzheimer’s, the latest edition of Queensland University News reported that “Queensland scientists have found that non-invasive ultrasound technology can be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and restore memory.”
The news has been widely reported throughout the developed world as a potential major breakthrough.
The article says that “University of Queensland researchers discovered that the innovative drug-free approach breaks apart the neurotoxic amyloid plaques that result in memory loss and cognitive decline.”
Highlights of Article in Queensland University News
The research found that high-energy sound waves helped remove abnormal clumps of protein’s known as amyloids (known to be an important factor in Alzheimer’s disease) from the brains of mice, and also improved their memory.
QBI Founding Director Professor Perry Bartlett said “the discovery – a result of ‘game-changing’ work performed at the Queensland Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research Brain Institute – was made possible through the support of the State and Federal Governments and philanthropic support led by the Clem Jones Foundation.”
Professor Perry Bartlett also said “I believe the work opens up an entirely novel avenue for future therapeutic treatment.”
Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research director Professor Jürgen Götz said the new treatment method could revolutionise Alzheimer’s treatment by restoring memory. “We’re extremely excited by this innovation of treating Alzheimer’s without using drug therapeutics,” Professor Götz said. He added that “The word ‘breakthrough’ 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.”
Dementia, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common form, affects close to 50m people worldwide and that number is set to reach 135m by 2050, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International, a non-profit campaign group.
Professor Götz also said “With an ageing population placing an increasing burden on the health system, an important factor is cost, and other potential drug treatments using antibodies will be expensive. In contrast, this method uses relatively inexpensive ultrasound and micro-bubble technology which is non-invasive and appears highly effective.”
The treatment works by temporarily opening the” blood-brain barrier” activating mechanisms that clear toxic protein clumps and restoring memory functions. “With our approach the blood-brain barrier’s opening is only temporary for a few hours, so it quickly restores its protective role,” Professor Götz said.
At this stage, research has been conducted using mice with an Alzheimer’s model, with the next step being to scale the research in higher animal models ahead of human clinical trials, which are at least two years away.
Professor Götz also disclosed that their research had shown that “This treatment restored memory function to the same level of normal healthy mice,” .
He added “We’re also working on seeing whether this method clears toxic protein aggregates in neurodegenerative diseases other than Alzheimer’s and whether this also restores executive functions, including decision-making and motor control.”
Highlights From Other Reports
Australian ABC news interviewed the leader of the research team Professor Jürgen Götz. You can listen to that interview here
Alzheimer’s Australia CEO Carol Bennett welcomed these new findings saying “This is world class research coming out of Australia, and we look forward to seeing further results to get a better idea of whether this ultrasound technology may be used as an Alzheimer’s disease treatment option in the future.”
Cosmos Magazine said: “While Götz (The Project Director, who was visiting Europe) was holed up in his hotel room, journalists, patients and venture capitalists called his cell phone incessantly. He even received calls from technical geeks suggesting design tweaks for his machine”
According to the UK “Guardian” newspaper : “ The new research, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, is the first demonstration that ultrasound alone might have a beneficial effect on the memory-robbing condition.”
Whilst it will take some time to determine whether this novel treatment will be as successful on humans as it was on mice, it is nevertheless an exciting development and will undoubtedly sow the seeds of other potential applications in the years to come; a fact confirmed by Professor Götz who said “We’re also working on seeing whether this method clears toxic protein aggregates in neurodegenerative diseases other than Alzheimer’s”
The level of coverage by the worlds’ press is a good indication that this could a game changing development, not just for Alzheimer’s sufferers, but also for people with other chronic diseases.
I will keep you posted on developments as the story unfolds.
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UQ Media Release: http://www.uq.edu.au/news/node/116645
The Guardian, March 12 2015
Australian Dementure Foundation: http://dementiaresearchfoundation.org.au/blog/new-ultrasound-scanning-technique-removes-amyloid-beta-plaques-mouse-brains
Australian ABC News Report and Interview: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/healthreport/ultrasound-technology-in-the-treatment-of-alzheimer27s-disease/6315196/
The UK Government site NHS Choices: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2015/03March/Pages/Ultrasound-breakthrough-in-treating-Alzheimers-in-mice.aspx
Cosmos Magazine: https://cosmosmagazine.com/life-sciences/ultrasound-cure-alzheimers
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