Ultrasound Technology Proposed as a Potential Treatment for Alzheimer’s
In a recent announcement, South Korea’s world-renowned Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology proposed therapeutic ultrasound as a potentially viable treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. The concept remains unproven, but there is promising research showing ultrasound technology’s efficacy for the treatment of other medical conditions. An application aiding the fight against Alzheimer’s would be revolutionary for medical technology and the future of patient care.
Alzheimer’s is an especially cruel disease for patients and their loved ones, and it’s yet to be fully understood. There is no known cure, but several research fields are dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of the human brain in search of insights and options for delaying, preventing, treating, and eventually curing Alzheimer’s.
The announcement from South Korea is fueling speculation that ultrasound technology may hold answers to one of medicine’s most enduring questions.
Potential neurological applications for ultrasound technology
There is little confirmed knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease. We know it correlates with elevated β-amyloid plaque concentrations and tau protein levels in the brain. And we know these buildups dampen neurological function and impede the brain’s ability to send and receive electrical signals.
Alzheimer’s researchers at the Gwangju Institute recently experimented with ultrasound-based gamma entrainment as a method for breaking down plaque and protein buildups. The therapy involves modulating a patient’s gamma brain waves (i.e., those above 30 hertz) with an external oscillation at a given frequency.
Gamma entrainment can occur naturally in response to external stimuli, such as sounds, lights, or vibrations. In this case, researchers used ultrasound pulses at 40 hertz to modulate the gamma waves of mice. Results from the experiment showed that “mice exposed to ultrasound pulses for two hours daily for two weeks had reduced β-amyloid plaque concentration and tau protein levels in their brain.”
Almost as critical as the shown reduction in β-amyloid plaques and tau proteins, is the noninvasive nature of ultrasound therapy. Researchers found no evidence of brain hemorrhage, micro-bleeding, or brain tissue deterioration caused by ultrasound-based gamma entrainment. It could signal a significant step forward in therapy for Alzheimer’s patients.
According to Gwangju Institute Associate Professor Jae Gwan Kim, “Compared with other gamma entrainment methods that rely on sounds or flickering lights, ultrasound can reach the brain non-invasively without disturbing our sensory system. This makes ultrasound-based approaches more comfortable for the patients.”
Focused ultrasound is a growing field of study
Results from the Gwangju Institute are the latest in a set of promising trials surrounding focused ultrasound technology as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s. According to the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, there are roughly a half-dozen clinical trials currently operating, each exploring the potential of waveform technology and its effects on the blood-brain barrier.
Current studies range from dispersion of β-amyloid plaque and tau proteins, like the Gwangju Institute’s trial, to enhanced delivery of therapeutic drugs or antibodies to the brain. There are also several notable preclinical laboratory studies taking shape with the potential to influence the way researchers think about ultrasound-based gamma entrainment in the context of other neurodegenerative diseases.
Focused ultrasound is an intriguing area of study for many reasons. Chiefly, its noninvasive nature makes rapid, iterative experimentation possible. It’s also extremely precise, thanks to modern ultrasound probe design. Moreover, ultrasound treatment can occur in tandem with drug trials and other treatments to enhance delivery through the blood-brain barrier.
Whether as the primary subject of study or a contributing factor, ultrasound technology clearly has an important role in the study of Alzheimer’s and potential treatments.
Unproven yet promising
Science is still a long way from proof of focused ultrasound therapy as an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s, but there are numerous clinical trials and research resources devoted to exploring the hypothesis. With tremendous optimism for a breakthrough in our understanding of Alzheimer’s, the medical community is buzzing.
Learn more about revolutionary uses of ultrasound technology at acertaralabs.com.