So far popularly known as an imagining technique used during pregnancy to see the baby’s movements inside the mother’s uterus, the ultrasound has potential in treating a lot of other problems. While one of them is to be used as a technique during physiotherapy to treat back pain and spondylitis issues, ultrasound now comes with a promise to even reach out to the depths of the brain. Yes, research is on to see how effective it can be in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, which is a neuro degenerative brain disease that currently has no cure.
Focused ultrasound therapy will be used similar to how a magnifying glass is used to focus the rays of the sun at one particular point so much so that the heat burns that point. On a similar note, focused ultrasound along with microbubbles will be used to safely and temporarily open the blood-brain barriers (BBB) and enable enhanced delivery of targeted medicine to reach the affected neurons.
In Alzheimer’s, some neurons in the brain are affected gradually leading to their degeneration and death. This happens when excessive clumps of protein from around the neurons, known as beta-amyloid plaques or twisted fibers of the protein that build up inside the neurons, known as neurofibrillary tangles. However, the reason causing this is still not known. Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s are memory loss, confusion and gradually it progresses to disorientation, trouble in reading and writing and personality changes.
There are some promising antibody therapies that might work in better management or even stalling of further progression of Alzheimer’s, but the challenge lies in the blood-brain barrier BBB. This is a naturally occurring barrier of cells that inhibits the diffusion of drugs or toxins into the central nervous system. But now focused ultrasound comes with the hope of breaking this barrier without compromising on the body’s natural defense systems.
A clinical trial focusing on this aspect is underway in Canada. If this trial proves successful, then it will come as a ray of hope to numerous Alzheimer’s patients who currently are living, but that life is just a mirage for them. Maybe, this clinical trial might prove to be the next big thing in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, and in these patients, if detected early, possibly the degeneration of the neurons can be stalled for good.