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Ultrasound triggers brain’s waste disposal system in Alzheimer’s patients

By | Nick Lavars |

Among the many moving parts that scientists suspect may play a role in Alzheimer’s disease is one known as the glymphatic system, which is thought to flush waste chemicals from the brain. A new study has demonstrated how this recently discovered system might be kicked into gear via ultrasound, with the technique proving effective in stimulating its activity in patients as part of early human trials.

Using ultrasound as a way of treating Alzheimer’s is starting to gain some traction on the back of promising research in rodents. Much of this centers on how targeted ultrasound can open the blood brain barrier to enable the passage of drugs to destroy the buildup of amyloid plaques, which are associated with the progression of the disease.

In this new study, carried out at West Virginia University, scientists dove a little deeper into the physiological effects of opening the blood brain barrier. The experiments involved three volunteers with early-stage Alzheimer’s aged 61, 72 and 73, who received ultrasound treatment targeting the hippocampus, the region associated with learning and memory capacity. Contrast-enhancement dyes were used and observed with MRI scans to track the resulting changes in the brain, which showed the dye moving through what are known as draining veins.

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