Ultrasound offers new hope for treating Alzheimer’s


Researchers at the University of Queensland have discovered that ultrasound therapy can improve cognition in neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease without specifically targeting amyloid plaque in the brain.

Dr Gerhard Leinenga and Professor Jürgen Götz from UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) challenge the conventional belief in Alzheimer’s research that clearing amyloid plaque is necessary for cognitive improvement.

“Amyloid plaques are clumps of protein that can build up in the brain and block communication between brain cells, leading to memory loss and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr Leinenga said.

“Previous studies have focused on opening the blood-brain barrier with microbubbles, which activate the cell type in the brain called microglia which clears the amyloid plaque.”

Dr Leinenga noted that ultrasound alone can induce long-lasting cognitive changes in the brain, correlating with memory improvement.

“Ultrasound on its own has direct effects on the neurons, with increased plasticity and improved brain networks,” he said. “We think the ultrasound is increasing the plasticity or the resilience of the brain to the plaques, even though it’s not specifically clearing them.”

Professor Götz added that the effectiveness of ultrasound therapy varied depending on the frequency used.

“We tested two types of ultrasound waves, emitted at two different frequencies,” he said. “We found the higher frequency showed superior results, compared to frequencies currently being explored in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease patients.”

The researchers aim to integrate these findings into Professor Götz’s safety trial, using non-invasive ultrasound to treat Alzheimer’s.

“By understanding the mechanisms underlying ultrasound therapy, we can tailor treatment strategies to maximise cognitive improvement in patients,” Dr Leinenga emphasised. “This approach represents a significant step towards personalised, effective therapies for neurodegenerative disorders.”

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.

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