Australian researchers say they have made a substantial breakthrough in the possible treatment of dementia.
Scientists at the University of Queensland’s Brain Institute (QBI) found using ultrasound scanning along with an antibody drug reduced Alzheimer’s symptoms in mice.
The technique allowed more of the medication to get into the brain to clear out the proteins that cause Alzheimer’s, Professor Jurgen Gotz from the Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research at QBI said.
“Reducing the toxic proteins then leads to an improvement in cognitive functions, and this can obviously be translated to patients,” he said.
Importantly, researchers found using the ultrasound opened up what is known as “the blood-brain barrier” — a membrane that usually stops drugs from the bloodstream from getting into the brain.
The barrier is there to protect the brain, but is also a major challenge for scientists trying to treat brain diseases.
It means the same ultrasound technique could potentially be used to treat other conditions such as Parkinson’s and MS more effectively.
“We believe that an ultrasound device should be approved for the treatment of brain diseases,” Professor Gotz said.
“This research could, in principle, be applied to other diseases with toxic protein build-ups such as Parkinson’s disease, Motor Neurone Disease or Huntington’s disease.”
The findings build on earlier research which found ultrasound was effective in treating mice with Alzheimer’s.
The new study showed adding the antibody drug was even more effective.
Experts caution the research has only been tested on mice and human trials are still needed to see if the benefits translate.
Alzheimer’s Australia CEO Maree McCabe said any human trials would be at least five years away.
“In this study, they are still at the stage of testing mice and they haven’t moved to humans, but the exciting part is the ability to open up the blood brain barrier for a short period of time,” she said.