A team of Australian researchers have found a new non-invasive Alzheimer’s treatment that may fully restore a patient’s memory functions. The procedure has been performed successfully on mice, with human trials set to begin in 2017.
In the paper published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers describe a technique that eliminates much of the damage Alzheimer’s does to the brain. The new procedure, known as a “focused therapeutic ultrasound,” beams ultra-fast sound waves into the brain, triggering the brain’s waste-removing microglilal cells.
The cleaning cells function as a tool to remove amyloid plaque from the brain. Amyloid plaques are one of the two major causes of memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s, along with neurofibrillary tangles, which cause a build up of neurons in the brain.
The team reports fully restoring the memory function of 75 percent of the mice they tested it on, with zero damage to the surrounding brain tissue. They found that the treated mice displayed improved performance in three memory tasks – a maze, a test to get them to [recognize] new objects, and one to get them to remember the places they should avoid.
Until these latest developments, researchers have found very few potential cures for Alzheimer’s-related memory loss and memory issues in general. Alzheimer’s effects 50 million people worldwide, and until recently, very little was known about the disease. The research team is expected to try their new procedure on other mammals, like sheep, before the human trials begin.
“We’re extremely excited by this innovation of treating Alzheimer’s without using drug therapeutics,” said Jürgen Götz, a member of the research team. “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.”