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New Whole Brain Dementia Treatment Using Ultrasound | Comfort Keepers Senior Health News

Aug 31, 2018 by Comfort Keepers of Montclair and Hasbrouck Heights

Dementia affects an estimated 50 million people across the globe. Despite this, there are currently no effective treatments, not even for the specific form of it that accounts for 85% of cases, Alzheimer’s disease.

A group of researchers in Japan have been playing around with a unique form of potential treatment: sound waves. Their new findings play off of previous ones to show the positive effects these waves may bring to damaged brains:

LIPUS

These sounds waves are called low-intensity pulsed ultrasound, or LIPUS.

A previous study conducted by the same team found that, in pig specimens who had myocardial ischemia (reduced blood flow to the heart caused by clots or blockages), LIPUS helped improve formation of blood vessels to reduce the severity of this condition.

Other scientists have found that LIPUS helped to promote nerve growth and survival by increasing the production of the proteins responsible for nerve health. Nerve regeneration was also observed, meaning dead/damaged nerves could be restored or replaced by this wave treatment.

Additionally, another study focused LIPUS treatment to the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in memory, to see if it affected dementia in mice models. This treatment did improve dementia in the specimens, though the mechanisms aren’t quite clear yet.

From Focused to Whole-Brain Treatment

Taking all of this previous research into account, the Japanese researchers wanted to see if broadening LIPUS treatment to the whole brain instead of solely to the hippocampus could reduce dementia even more so, and to figure out how it does so.

Two groups of mice were genetically modified for this study: the first having vascular dementia, which is dementia resulting from limited blood supply to the brain, and the second having a condition simulating Alzheimer’s in humans.

The first group received treatments the first, third and fifth days after the procedure to limit blood supply to their brains. The Alzheimer’s group received 11 treatments over the course of 3 months. Each treatment for both groups was 20 minutes at a time, 3 times on the treatment days for a total of 1 hour of LIPUS each session.

Both groups had incredible improvements with their conditions after the treatment period. Additionally, the mechanism was brought to light a bit more: genes that regulated the cells lining the blood vessels were actually turned on with this wave treatment. This is the first experimental evidence on how LIPUS works to improve brain health.

Other Benefits to This Form of Therapy

Treatments with pharmaceuticals can only go so far because of how tightly packed these cells lining blood vessels are in the brain. This packing prevents molecules that are too large to pass through, meaning drug treatments for dementia are very limited. This wave method surpasses that barrier.

Not only that, but LIPUS also:

  • Is non-invasive, which makes it safer for seniors
  • Has no obvious side effects, unlike most drugs
  • Can be repeated as often as needed

It will also most likely be a cheaper option for dementia treatment.

Luckily, the first clinical trials have already began for LIPUS treatment, though it may still be some time before it’s available for the public. Either way, having a potential treatment option that does not add another medication onto senior’s lists of daily pills or does not cost a fortune is a feat in itself. 

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