With the goal of slowing or reversing the negative neurological effects of multiple sclerosis, researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle recently completed a pre-clinical in vivo study using pulsed focused ultrasound to increase myelination of affected neurons in the brain.
“Modulated Focused Ultrasound for Treatment of De-Myelinating Axons In Multiple Sclerosis Lesions – Pilot Animal Studies” was led by Pierre D. Mourad, PhD, a Professor in the Department of Engineering and Mathematics, and in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Washington.
After initial studies identified two potential treatment protocols that enhanced re-myelination in a small animal model, Mourad’s group pursued more detailed studies based on the most promising protocol. Using MRI imaging to assay myelination levels before, during, and after treatment, they performed pulsed focused ultrasound on only one side of the brain for 30 minutes every day for five days. On treatment day one, they used subdermal EEG monitoring to verify neural activation.
Histological analyses showed increased myelin on the side of the brain exposed to the stimulation relative to the non-treated side. Specifically, accelerated re-myelination of the corpus callosum was found in six of seven animals, with a mean net positive change in grey value (a proxy for myelin) of 5%.
The group has received follow-on funding from the NIH to continue to study a variety of effects of ultrasound activation of the brain. They will use part of this grant to continue their efforts to treat multiple sclerosis with pulsed focused ultrasound as well as seek dedicated funding to this promising effort.