Ultrasound treatment opening the blood brain barrier safe for people with dementia

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By Alice Tuohy | Wednesday 25 July 2018

Nature Communications: Blood-brain barrier opening in Alzheimer’s disease using MR-guided focussed ultrasound

Canadian scientists have shown that a treatment to open the blood brain barrier, which involves implanting an ultrasound treatment alongside an injection of a small gas bubble into the bloodstream is safe in a study of four people with dementia. The findings are published today (Wednesday 25 July) in the scientific journal, Nature Communications.

Dr Carol Routledge, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Important barriers exist between the blood and brain as protection against damage and infection, but this does make it very difficult to deliver treatments into the brain. Previous studies using ultrasound technology to briefly opentheblood brain barrier have been done in mice so it’s promising to now see this research moving into people.

“This small phase I trial involving four people is an important step forward in demonstrating that this treatment is safe for people with dementia, but how feasible it would be to deliver to a larger number of people has yet to be explored. Although the study looked for direct benefits on memory and thinking, the numbers were too small to detect any change and the approach may lend itself more to a delivery mechanism for future Alzheimer’s drugs. Following these initial safety findings, larger clinical trials can now take place to explore its benefits for dementia treatment. It will be important for future studies to use participants who are representative of the broader population of people living with dementia as the four people in this study were all under 64.

“We urgently need to see new treatments to help the 50 million people in the world living with dementia and it is vital we continue to invest in a broad range of approaches to improve people’s lives.”


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Alice Tuohy