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Study: Ultrasound triggers cells to 'eat' brain plaque

March 23, 2015
by Richard R. Rogoski
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In what may become a breakthrough in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute are using ultrasound waves to activate microglial cells that digest and remove amyloid plaques.

In studies on mice with an Alzheimer's model, the scientists used ultrasound and microbubble technology to temporarily open the blood-brain barrier to activate the mechanisms that are able to clear away toxic protein clumps and restore memory function. The treated mice had their memory function restored to the same level as those that were healthy.

"We’re extremely excited by this innovation of treating Alzheimer’s without using drug therapeutics," said Professor Jürgen Götz, research director of the Queensland Brain Institute's Clem Jones Center for Aging Dementia Research, in a press release. "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."

Results of the study were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.