Saturday, March 14, 2015

Alzheimer's Disease: Possible Breakthrough Treatment — Ultrasound

If you have a family member who suffers Alzheimer's disease, you know firsthand how devastating the condition is to the sufferer and his/her family. Even as one who never for a moment contemplated a career in medicine, I spent many hours attempting to read medical journal articles on Alzheimer's research published between about 1986 and 1990, the year my mother died of this relentless destroyer of the human brain. At the time, no one, medical professional or otherwise, had any idea that 25 years later medical science still would not have a sufficiently clear understanding of the nature of the disease to undertake to use available techniques to treat it, let alone cure it.

Fast-forward past 25 years of Alzheimer's research and many hopeful but failed attempts at finding effective treatment... it's been a bleak quarter century for families like mine, especially those families in which there are indications of a genetic component, a family connection, in the propagation of the disease.

Finally (we can hope it's "finally"), Walter Einenkel at Kos points out an article in The Guardian detailing how researchers at University of Queensland in Brisbane undertook a wholly new approach, using ultrasound to break up the tangles of plaques in the brain that are a primary manifestation of Alzheimer's. So far, tests have been done only in mice, but the resulting improvement in function in most of the treated mice is very promising. One problem in many previous attempts at drug-based treatments is the blood-brain barrier, which is apparently no barrier to sound waves.

(I was already having difficulty sleeping tonight; now I know I may as well give up... at least for a change it's good news keeping me awake!)

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