Posted on Nov 22, 2018, 7 p.m.
Scientists from the Tohoku University suggest that a new therapy based on ultrasound waves may be able to improve cognitive functions of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, who say the approach improved conditions of mice models of dementia.
Low intensity pulsed ultrasound waves were sent through brains of model mice, the team found that the waves improved creation of blood vessels and rate of regeneration of nerve cells; treatment did not cause any notable signs of side effects in the animals leading the team to believe their experimental success could be replicated in humans.
LIPUS therapy is non-invasive physiotherapy that may apply to high risk elderly patients without need for anaesthesia or surgery, and may even be used repeatedly, explained Hiroaki Shimokawa.
10 million new cases of dementia appear each year, many of these cases are vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease which are the most common forms of dementia. Even with their prevalence there are no known or certified treatments which is mostly due to the compact arrangement of blood vessels coursing through the brain. The blood brain barrier keeps large molecules out of the brain and makes it difficult for most medications to reach the brain.
This study was built on the team’s previous efforts involving pigs with myocardial ischemia with hearts that suffered from reduced blood flow. Other LIPUS experiments demonstrated it could create proteins that play roles in survival and development of nerve cells with affected processes including nerve regeneration.
Subjecting the hippocampus of model mice to concentrated LIPUS treatment greatly improved the behavior of the animals in previous studies. Whole brain LIPUS treatment was used in this study to determine it it could work, and if it did the team wanted to find the means by which the therapy improved dementia symptoms.
LIPUS therapy was applied to the whole brain of model mice resembling vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s disease for 20 minutes three times a day. Mice with simulated vascular dementia has surgery to reduce the amount of blood reaching the brain, and underwent LIPUS treatment on the first, third, and fifth days after surgery. Mice modeling AD were given 11 LIPUS treatments over a 3 month period.
The team found that LIPUS therapy activated genes involved in cells that made up inner linings of blood vessels; and an enzyme promoting blood vessel formation displayed increased activity as well as a protein which helped nerve cells grow.
Whole brain LIPUS therapy can help to alleviate symptoms of certain forms of dementia based on these findings via encouraging development of cells normally affected by the condition. This technique is currently in initial clinical trials to determine safety and efficacy.
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