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Description: Current treatments for Alzheimer’s disease are limited in their effectiveness. A major issue is sorting out the potential causes of the disease from symptoms – the classical problem of correlation. This research on the potentially positive effects of ultrasound on the amyloid plaques that arise in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients is a good (and promising) example.

Sources: The Globe and Mail

Date: March 13, 2015

Alzheimers and Ultrasound

Photo Source The Globe and Mail http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/ultrasound-shows-new-promise-as-alzheimers-treatment/article23429353/

Links:    Globe and Mail Ultrasound and Alzheimer’s Article: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/ultrasound-shows-new-promise-as-alzheimers-treatment/article23429353/

The brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients become loaded with amyloid plaques and this loading up is associated with the losses of memory and thinking and planning attributed to the disease. Mice have been selectively bred to produce a strain that rapidly develops the brain and behavioural symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and are used to test potential treatments. Ultrasound has been used to facilitate the movement of potential treatment substances across the blood-brain barrier and in the study discussed in this media article Australian researchers discovered that ultrasound alone when applied to the brains of Alzheimer’s disease model mice found that the amyloid plaques disappeared completely from the brains of 75% of the mice in the study. The memory functions of the mice also improved significantly. They caution that it is still unclear whether the amyloid plaques are symptoms or causally related to Alzheimer’s disease. As well, it is not clear whether the same effect would be noted in animals with thicker skulls (such as sheep and humans) and whether the memory effects will generalize as well. As is virtually always the case, … more research is needed.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What effects did ultrasound seem to have on the Alzheimer’s disease model mice?
  2. What are some of the limits that should be placed on our potential hope and enthusiasm for these results?
  3. What sorts of studies must be done to move this promising result forward?

References (Read Further):

Leinenga, Gerhard and Gotz, Jurgen (2015) Scanning ultrasound removed amyloid-β and restores memory in Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Science Translational Medicine, 7(278) 278ra33. http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/7/278/278ra33.abstract?sid=a14de96e-075c-4bae-9efe-8dff11aefa46

Take a tour of the brain and see the symptoms and effects of Alzheimer’s disease within the human brain at the Alzheimer’s association website; http://www.alz.org/braintour/3_main_parts.asp

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