As a little bit of a background, Alzheimer’s is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that is characterized by loss of memory and behavioral changes. The underlying cause of it is the destruction of connections between neurons, which ultimately lead to their death. It is not a normal part of aging as it gradually decreases bodily, intellectual and communicative function. There is currently no cure that will stop or reverse the effects of this disease, but according to Science Translation Medicine journal this might change sooner than expected!
An individual suffering from this disease usually develops the condition because of two types of lesions: amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Amyloid plaques result from an accumulation of proteins clumping together between neurons to form plaques while neurofibrillary tangles develop from defective tau proteins inside the brain that clump up into a thick mass, causing tiny filaments that are responsible for molecular transportation inside the cells become twisted.
The QBI team at University of Queensland have developed a technique called a Focused Therapeutic Ultrasound. It non-invasively directs beams of sound waves into the brain tissue, which then open up the blood-brain barrier and stimulate waste-removing cells. These cells can then remove the toxic clumps between the neurons in the brain and relieve some of the worst symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
In order to test this treatment, the team observed experimental mice in three memory tasks. For the first task the mice had to complete a maze, the second test was used to analyze their object recognition and the last was used to teach them to remember stress-inducing places.
Based on the collected data, the QBI team reports that they were able to restore memory function in 75% of the mice they’ve worked with. In addition to yielding positive results, there saw no adverse effects or damage to the surrounding brain tissue. Based on their reports, it seems that we can be a little more optimistic regarding the issue!
According to one of the team representatives, this is an exciting and original sort of treatment that includes zero use of drug therapeutics. Their team is eager to change the understanding of how this disease can be treated and develop a more innovative approach.
In order to take this study a step further, the QBI team is planning to start new trials with higher level animal models, such as sheep. They hope to further improve the new technique with more data and begin their human trials some time in the year 2017. You can hear everything they had to say regarding this treatment on radio.abc.net.au .
Whether this is treatment is a new scientific breakthrough has yet to be determined, but there is definitely some potential and hope for those affected and whose loved ones are suffering from the disease. Research is being conducted everyday and we are optimistic that a solution is on its way!
What are your thoughts on this new treatment proposed by the QBI team? Share in the comments!
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