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Using Ultrasound to Combat Alzheimer’s

One of the greatest things about being a college professor is seeing the interest of the students translate into them coming to me with new research being done in a particular field. I try my best to keep up with the literature, but it can be difficult sometimes with a busy schedule. And when the students are coming to me with interesting peer reviewed research, it demonstrates an interest in the material above and beyond just what we talk about in class.

The really awesome thing is seeing the very subject matter of a particular paper being shared on social media. Case in point: researchers in Australia have successfully used ultrasound to get rid of the amyloid beta protein (makes the plaques seen in patients with Alzheimer’s disease) and fix the memory issues in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s. In a nutshell, the ultrasound makes the blood brain barrier leaky, allowing a protein called albumin to get into the brain and help the brain’s version of immune cells (microglia) to engulf the amyloid beta in the plaques. That in and of itself was pretty amazing, but it’s the restoration of brain function that is the real kicker. Because, honestly, who cares if the protein is gone if the brain can’t recover? The mice in this study were placed in a variety of memory tasks to ascertain memory function and found that the treatment with ultrasound restored the mouse’s memory.

There’s still much work to be done before this ultrasound method is used in human clinical trials. Most mouse models for the disease don’t emulate every aspect of what happens in humans. Something might work great in mouse or rat models and have disastrous results when given to humans in the first phase of a clinical trial. But if this does prove a safe and effective way of removing amyloid, we could very well be on our way to zapping Alzheimer’s for good.


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