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A team of researchers from the University of Queensland and the Queensland Brain Institute may be in the midst of a breakthrough in Alzheimer treatment research, with their latest treatment restoring memory in 75 per cent of tested mice.
Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by memory loss and cognitive functioning impairment, and is usually attributed to brain abnormalities called amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Amyloid plaques are extracellular deposits found between neurons, made up of aggregated clusters of the beta-amyloid protein. Similarly, neurofibrillary tangles are comprised of erroneously formed protein clusters. These clusters manifest inside brain neurons, due to a mutation in the tau protein. Both of these undesirable structures disrupt neuron information and nutrient relaying in the brain.
The Australian research team has developed a non-invasive technique utilizing ultrasound, sending super fast oscillating waves into the brain to open the blood-brain barrier and stimulate cells called microglial cells to enter the brain. These microglial cells work as “waste removers”, and actively clear out these undesired protein clumps.
The therapy was explored by genetically altering mice to produce excess amyloid plaques. The mice were then treated almost daily for a few weeks with the ultrasound therapy. After the treatment, mice were given three memory tasks: a maze, a novel object recognition task, and an active place avoidance task. 75 per cent of treated mice showed full memory restoration, with no damage to surrounding brain tissue. A control group of mice that did not receive treatment also completed the tasks, with no memory restoration demonstrated. Higher animal model trials are soon to begin with sheep, with human trials hopefully beginning in 2017.