Worldwide, 50 million people are living with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. As clinical trials advance and more data are gathered, focused ultrasound technology is gaining wider recognition for its potential to noninvasively, temporarily and safely open the blood-brain barrier to enable delivery of drugs or other neurotherapeutics to specific targets in the brain to effectively treat Alzheimer’s.
June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. As in years past, our staff wore purple on June 21 – the Longest Day – to show our support for the Alzheimer’s Association in their fight to end Alzheimer’s disease. June 21, the summer solstice and the day of peak sunlight in the northern hemisphere, symbolizes our collective efforts to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s.
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, and there are very few disease-modifying therapies available. Potentially promising drug and antibody therapies are often limited by their inability to efficiently cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB), a naturally occurring barrier of cells that inhibits the diffusion of drugs or toxins into the central nervous system.
Several preclinical studies have successfully used focused ultrasound in combination with microbubbles to temporarily open the BBB and enhance the delivery of neurotherapeutics to the brain. Further studies have demonstrated the ability of FUS-induced BBB opening (with and without neurotherapeutics) to improve cognition and decrease the presence of amyloid and tau proteins in mice. Rapid translation of these exciting findings to the clinic – aided by support from the Foundation – demonstrated the safety and feasibility of focused ultrasound in combination with microbubbles to temporarily open the BBB in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and the findings were published in 2018. Further clinical studies are in progress using focused ultrasound to open the BBB in areas of the brain more frequently affected in Alzheimer’s disease. The next step is to explore opening larger volumes of the BBB for treatment with or without neurotherapeutics such as drugs or antibodies.
To learn more about a current clinical trial, see Patient News.
In just the past year, several notable milestones involving the use of focused ultrasound to treat Alzheimer’s have occurred:
- Ohio State Joins Alzheimer’s Clinical Trial – May 2019
- Alzheimer’s Clinical Trial at Queensland Brain Institute Receives $10M in Funding – January 2019
- Scientific American Article Highlights Focused Ultrasound for Alzheimer's – November 2018
- West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute Pioneers Promising New Alzheimer’s Therapy – October 2018
- Landmark Trial Using Focused Ultrasound in Alzheimer’s Patients Presented at AAIC Meeting, Published in Nature Communications – July 2018
Building on these important advances in the use of focused ultrasound to treat Alzheimer’s, we eagerly anticipate more in the years to come.
Breaking Barriers in Alzheimer’s Disease with Focused Ultrasound
Blog: Potential New Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease
Focused Ultrasound for Alzheimer's Disease (PDF)
Patient Story: WVU performs Promising New Alzheimer’s Therapy (video)
Blog: Emerging Applications of Focused Ultrasound – Alzheimer’s Disease
About Focused Ultrasound and Alzheimer’s
First Alzheimer's Patient Treated with Focused Ultrasound to Open the Blood-Brain Barrier (with video)