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posted by martyb on Friday August 19 2016, @09:52AM   Printer-friendly
from the finally-some-good-news dept.

Submitted via IRC for cmn32480 with a story that appeared in ScienceAlert:

Australian researchers have come up with a non-invasive ultrasound technology that clears the brain of neurotoxic amyloid plaques - structures that are responsible for memory loss and a decline in cognitive function in Alzheimer's patients.

If a person has Alzheimer's disease, it's usually the result of a build-up of two types of lesions - amyloid plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles. Amyloid plaques sit between the neurons and end up as dense clusters of beta-amyloid molecules, a sticky type of protein that clumps together and forms plaques.

Neurofibrillary tangles are found inside the neurons of the brain, and they're caused by defective tau proteins that clump up into a thick, insoluble mass. This causes tiny filaments called microtubules to get all twisted, which disrupts the transportation of essential materials such as nutrients and organelles along them, just like when you twist up the vacuum cleaner tube.

[...] Publishing in Science Translational Medicine , the team describes the technique as using a particular type of ultrasound called a focused therapeutic ultrasound, which non-invasively beams sound waves into the brain tissue. By oscillating super-fast, these sound waves are able to gently open up the blood-brain barrier, which is a layer that protects the brain against bacteria, and stimulate the brain's microglial cells to activate. Microglila cells are basically waste-removal cells, so they're able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps that are responsible for the worst symptoms of Alzheimer's.

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 recognise new objects, and one to get them to remember the places they should avoid.

[...] The team says they're planning on starting trials with higher animal models, such as sheep, and hope to get their human trials underway in 2017.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 19 2016, @06:28PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 19 2016, @06:28PM (#390209)

    dishonesty in medicine is a major problem

    It really isn't dishonesty for the most part. The biggest problem is that people are not really interested in doing a good job when it comes to medical research. They think they are getting away with half-assing it only because they do not know what their p-values mean. The public also doesn't seem interested in funding the basic science that needs to be done so we can start moving forward, they would prefer funding a million monkeys doing a million random things to 20 million rodents.

    If ultrasound did absolutely nothing, that would still be better than these drugs that do nothing good while causing bad side effects.

    Well, the way it is supposed to work is by "opening the blood brain barrier". They show evidence of this: blue dye they injected into the tail vein collected in the brain underneath where they did the ultrasound, apparently none would normally be found in the brain. I'd just say there is probably a reason your body normally prevents stuff like that blue dye from collecting in the brain. Then they say the next step to it working is that the microglia (immune cells of the brain) become activated. If that is correct, we need to expect that one type of side effect will be brain inflammation and development of autoimmune disorders to nervous system tissues.

    They say it was safe... but is 1.5 months (the duration of this study) long enough for such things to show up? I dunno, I'm just saying that based on their description this does not sound particularly unlikely to be free of side effects or at all safe.