Neurological disorders such as dementia and its major form, Alzheimer’s disease, are an ongoing and increasing challenge for our ageing population.
Sadly, the disorders remain incurable as there are limitations in existing treatments such as drugs and surgical therapies, due to their difficulty in accessing the brain.
But thanks to the pioneering work of Professor Jürgen Götz and his team at the University of Queensland, there are now some exciting applications of ultrasound technology, which may have a profound effect on alleviating the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
In advance of his address at the National Dementia conference, Götz spoke to us about some of his ground-breaking findings from safety and feasibility studies in preclinical models involving rodent models of Azheimer’s disease.
“One of the key characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease is the accumulation of amyloid plaques between neurons and tau tangles within neurons in affected brains, which causes the neurons to degenerate”, he says.
“In normal brains, amyloid and tau are broken down and eliminated, but in Alzheimer’s brains they accumulate forming hard, insoluble clumps”.
“The non-thermal ultrasound therapy we have been trialing allows a therapeutic agent and blood-borne protective factors to enter the brain in mice with induced Alzheimer’s and remove these plaques and tangles.”
The result is a brain which more closely resembles that of a non-Alzheimer’s mouse and a significantly reduced cognitive impairment.
In humans, so far, ultrasound technology has proven useful for a range of ‘thermal’ applications including focused lesions of brain regions controlling movement and alleviating symptoms of essential tremor.
But this novel ‘non-thermal’ procedure trialed by Götz and his colleagues has the potential to be applied to brains of patients living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
“We are very excited to share these new findings and assess their potential for clinical translation”, says Götz.
Professor Götz will discuss the methodology behind this innovative procedure at the National Dementia Conference – due to take place 15-16 May 2018 in Melbourne.