Alzheimer's is devastating for 50 million people worldwide who suffer from the disease. But besides the patients, it can be even tougher for care givers and loved ones. It's incredibly terrible to watch family members slowly succumb to this debilitating disease.
That's why I was so excited to learn of this new Alzheimer's disease treat breakthrough. Researchers in Australia may have found a dramatic new way to treat Alzheimer's patients to fully restore memory functions. It's already proven to 75% effective in animal trials, and it has nothing to do with invasive surgery or risky procedures.
For those of you that don't know, Alzheimer's disease isn't just a person becoming forgetful. It's a neurodegenerative disease that gradually strips the brain of functioning tissue and nerves, causing memory loss, dementia, mood swings, organ failure and eventually death.
People diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease are generally given between three and nine years to live, and there's currently no known cure. But a group of Australian researchers is working hard to change that.
While we have yet to even pinpoint a cause, scientists know that those with Alzheimer's usually have "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."
A team from the Queensland Brain Institute has created a technique that uses ultrasound technology to treat those already suffering from Alzheimer's. The basic goal is to eliminate the blockages in the brain caused by the defective tau proteins and the beta-amyloid plaque, and there's been a discovery that can remove the beta-amyloid proteins and restore up to 75% of memory.
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 move in. Microglia cells are basically waste-removal cells, so once they get past the blood-brain barrier, they’re able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps before the blood-brain barrier is restored within a few hours.
The short of it is that there is a way to restore memory and clear the brain of those harmful blockages and tangles. The treated mice displayed improved performance in three test areas; a maze, a short-term memory test, and a test where mice remember places to avoid. The Australian team is working its way up through larger animals, and hopes to begin human testing by 2017.