New Pre-Clinical Research Further Validates Potential for Focused Ultrasound in Alzheimer's

A pre-clinical study published this week in Science Translational Medicine suggests that focused ultrasound may hold a key to providing a non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical approach to treating Alzheimer’s disease.

stm cover mar11

Researchers from the Queensland Brain Institute in Australia demonstrated that combining the injection of microbubbles and applying ultrasound across the brain using a system from Philips Research reduced the number and volume of amyloid plaques in mice genetically altered to model Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, they found that treated mice had improved memory over untreated ones.

Within just a few hours of publication, the research generated interest around the world, with many leading news sources reporting on the study. “Our research was very exploratory and we really didn’t expect to see such a massive effect,” study author Jürgen Götz told Reuters. “I’m really excited by this.”

This important work conducted by Götz and Gerhard Leinenga, neuroscience researchers who are experts in Alzheimer’s disease, corroborates studies done at Sunnybrook Research Institute under the leadership of focused ultrasound pioneer Kullervo Hynynen. Hynynen and his colleagues were the first to publish data suggesting the benefit of focused ultrasound and microbubbles to open the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and reduce the plaque burden in a different Alzheimer’s model. Similarly, Foundation-funded preclinical research at Columbia University by Elisa Konofagou, PhD, safely opened the BBB to treat neurogenerative conditions—including Alzheimer’s.

Foundation Chairman Neal F. Kassell, MD, stated, “These two studies in separate laboratories using different models are the essential predicate for a clinical trial. Combining these data with a successful safety and efficacy study for opening the blood-brain barrier, which is beginning soon at Sunnybrook, could get us there.”

alzheimers illustrationAlthough the research is still preliminary, having two validated approaches that use focused ultrasound to eliminate plaques is very promising. “This research makes a wonderful connection between the focused ultrasound community and the neuroscience community that studies Alzheimer’s disease at the most basic cellular level,” said the Foundation’s Chief Scientific Officer Jessica Foley, PhD. “The attention that it is receiving will shed light on the important and immediate advances that are being made to treat a range of brain disorders.”

The Foundation is organizing a steering committee to support additional Alzheimer’s research from preclinical stages to clinical trials.

Read the News Coverage from Science Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, International Business Times, and the Australian.

Read more about Dr. Hynynen’s team’s progress on Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

Image Sources:

(1) STM's online cover image: Bubbles, Beams, and Microglial Activation. Transient opening of the blood-brain barrier results in activation of microglial cells (yellow), which then start engulfing amyloid plaques (gray) in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Transient opening of the tight junctions of endothelial cells (red) that comprise the blood-brain barrier was induced by injected microbubbles and an ultrasound beam. From G. Leinenga, J. Götz, Scanning ultrasound removes amyloid-β and restores memory in an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Sci. Transl. Med. 7, 278ra33 (2015). Reprinted with permission from AAAS. CONCEPT NICK VALMAS, THE UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND/ILLUSTRATION BY V. ALTOUNIAN/SCIENCE TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINE

(2) Sunnybrook Research Institute



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0 #6 FUS Foundation 2016-03-23 15:16
Thank you for your continued interest in focused ultrasound and its potential implications for Alzheimer's disease.

To date, there has been promising preclinical work in focused ultrasound for Alzheimer's, but we are not aware of any clinical studies yet. We will be sure to report on any news on the topic as it becomes available. You can find more information on Alzheimer's here (, and this page will remain updated with any further information.
+1 #5 Ted Sorich 2016-02-28 12:51
With the millions of people afflicted by Alzheimer's Disease worldwide -- and yet politicians in the U.S., for example, so concerned about the future financial condition of the Social Security and Medicare systems -- it is not at all difficult to hypothesize that the FDA and other regulatory agencies certainly are not highly motivated to move with reasonable dispatch on clinical trials and drugs showing promise for this cruel disease.

Clearly, patient safety is a very important issue moving forward. However, we millions of spouses and caregivers of Alzheimer's patients need to be more organized and much more pro-active to ensure that human clinical trials on such promising approaches as ultrasound are not being 'slow-tracked' because millions of (mostly elderly) people are 'expendable' and -- if surviving to older ages -- would be a drain on these economic systems.

If we forego our ethics and compassion, what does that say about our human society?
0 #4 Adele 2016-01-11 14:14
We can't wait....millions are suffering...where can I just buy the ultrasound and save my mom, I don't know how much of her is still in there in the scary darkness of her once active mind!
0 #3 Kevin 2016-01-07 20:51
My father-in-law also has early onset. I realize there are currently no clinical trials for focused ultrasound; however, is there any way of becoming a candidate early on in preparation for once the trials become available.
+2 #2 FUS Foundation team 2015-06-01 14:32
Hello Joanne,

Unfortunately, research into using focused ultrasound for Alzheimer's is still in the early stages and not clinically available in a trial at this time. However, the Foundation has compiled a steering committee designed to move this promising research towards patients:
0 #1 Joanne Leach 2015-06-01 06:31
My husband who is 53 has early onset alzheimers.
Is there a clinical trail available for this study?

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