Australian researchers say they have made an encouraging step in the future treatment of Alzheimer’s disease after determining ultrasound can effectively and safely deliver drugs to the damaged brain.
Scientists from UQ's Queensland Brain Institute (QBI), earlier showed non-pharmacological scanning ultrasound reversed Alzheimer's indicators and restored memory in mice. The new study indicated that ultrasound alone cleared toxic tau protein clumps, but combining ultrasound with an antibody treatment was more effective than either treatment by themselves in eliminating protein clumps and reducing Alzheimer's symptoms in mice.
QBI director Professor Pankaj Sah said the study was made possible through the backing of the State and Federal Governments, and benevolent support led by the Clem Jones Foundation.
"The discovery is another promising step made by QBI scientists towards future therapeutic treatments for dementia," Professor Sah said.
"Excitingly, the research shows that ultrasound may also be a practical treatment for other disorders in which proteins aggregate in the brain – including Parkinson's and motor neuron disease."
Professor Jürgen Götz, the study's leader and Director of QBI's Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research (CJCADR), said the combination treatment increased uptake of the
therapeutic antibody into the brain and its separate neurons, and could be used to make treatments for brain diseases more affordable.
The paper's lead author, Dr. Rebecca Nisbet, said antibody treatments could cost an estimated $25,000 to $100,000 per patient per year, and their research may radically reduce the cost of these treatments. Delivering drugs to the brain is challenging because of the blood–brain barrier, which protects from toxins in the bloodstream; but, the ultrasound method briefly opens the barrier, increasing the uptake of drug treatments and restoring memory functions.
The UQ researchers are conducting ongoing efforts to translate the research into a therapy for patients in the next few years, and in the meantime, patients are being instructed to contact their specialists.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia, and the number of dementia cases in Australia is projected to rise to 900,000 by 2050.