New research led by Australian scientists is revealing how a new ultrasound technique could help treat Alzheimer’s disease. The team has discovered that focused ultrasound can weaken the blood-brain barrier in brain cells, improving the uptake of drugs that treat Alzheimer's.
The blood-brain barrier
“The blood-brain barrier is a semipermeable barrier that lines blood vessels in the brain and importantly protects brain tissue, but that protective function also prevents the uptake of drugs and therapies targeting brain diseases,” explained to New Atlas Anthony White, lead researcher on the project from QIMR Berghofer.
The research is a long time coming. Previous studies have indicated that focused ultrasound may help the brain clear toxic protein clumps associated with neurodegeneration. The new study looks further into this potential.
“Our study is the first to look at how the blood-brain barrier cells from human patients can be disrupted to improve the uptake of Alzheimer’s therapies,” said White, “building on previous studies that have explored if ultrasound could be used to reduce the amyloid build up in the brains of mice and other animal models.”
The new research looked at human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from patients highly likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. An ultrasound treatment was administered in those brain cells and the researchers found that it had a greater disruptive effect on the Alzheimer’s ones compared to the healthy ones.
“The treatment generated openings in the monolayer of the blood-brain barrier of all patients, but the brain endothelial cells of healthy controls repaired themselves quicker than the Alzheimer’s patient cells,” said Lotta Oikari, first author on the new study.
“The blood-brain barrier in Alzheimer’s patients was slower to repair, indicating they would be more receptive to drugs and treatments for longer and that brain ultrasound treatment may have to be adjusted differently depending on the type of disease the patient has.”
The study was published in the journal Stem Cell Reports.