Key Points

  • Up to 80% of Parkinson’s disease patients experience problems with attention span and executive and decision-making tasks.
  • Scientists in Madrid tested the safety of using focused ultrasound plus microbubbles to open the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in these patients.
  • This early evidence suggests that BBB opening could be used to deliver neuroprotective therapeutics to prevent or reduce the cognitive symptoms.

Blood-Brain Barrier Opening with Focused Ultrasound in Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

stock brain memory loss dementia alzheimers puzzleUp to 80% of people living with Parkinson’s disease begin to experience dementia, or declines in thinking and reasoning as a long-term evolution of the illness. These symptoms affect attention span, executive and decision-making tasks, and in some cases, memory.

A team of scientists in Madrid, Spain, led by Professor Jose Obeso, MD, PhD, sought to test the safety of using focused ultrasound plus microbubbles to open the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in patients with Parkinson’s dementia. Early evidence shows that BBB opening could be an effective tool for delivering neuroprotective therapeutics to prevent or reduce the cognitive symptoms.

Preliminary results have now been published for the first five patients enrolled in the prospective, single-arm, non-randomized, proof-of-concept, safety and feasibility phase I clinical trial that is now in progress. Promising early results measuring β-amyloid burden, brain metabolism after treatment, and the neuropsychological assessments, along with the absence of serious clinical or radiological side effects, may mean hope for first ameliorating and then eventually preventing the development of dementia in people living with Parkinson’s disease.

“Finding a way to prevent Parkinson’s dementia has been one of my primary research interests for many years,” said Prof. Obeso. “Using focused ultrasound to reach the root cause of the problem could allow physicians to dramatically increase the quality of life for our patients. The field is evolving rapidly, and the possibility of delivering antibodies and other molecules, as well as gene therapy specifically to halt the neurodegeneration process in Parkinson´s disease, is coming soon. We shall be aiming to intervene early in the process -- but also in patients with mild cognitive impairment -- to halt progression toward dementia.”

Although many questions remain as to whether the measured improvements are enough to make a difference, how long the effects will last, and the need for future treatments, this initial early evidence shows that the procedure appears to be safe and potentially effective.

See Nature Communications >

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