A New Test on Mice May Aid Alzheimer’s Patients

Ultrasound waves helped restore memory to rodents with the disease

(This article appeared previously on PBS NewsHour.)

A team of Australian researchers recently found that ultrasound waves have helped restore memory to mice with Alzheimer’s disease, potentially bringing scientists closer to finding a way to prevent the disease.

Alzheimer’s, which affects more than 5 million Americans, is a result of a build-up of amyloid-β in the brain. The plaque prevents communication between brain cells, and a patient with Alzheimer’s has a more difficult time breaking apart the plaque. According to Popular Science, breaking down the plaque is difficult due to a “layer of tightly bound cells that separates the blood, water and other chemicals that are inside the brain from those outside it.” Most drugs that would break up the plaque are not able to get past the barrier.

(MORE: Treatment and Maybe a Cure for Alzheimer's)

“The Australian team sent ultrasound waves — sound waves that move at a much higher frequency than humans can hear — at the mice’s brains,” according to Popular Science. The team found that the waves stimulated microglia, a cell that attacks unwanted items in the brain and strengthens the immune system. The researchers found that 75 percent of the mice that underwent the treatment had a severe decrease of plaque.

The team hopes to test the method on sheep before starting on humans.

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