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article imageOpening the blood-brain barrier for Alzheimer's research

By Tim Sandle     May 6, 2019 in Science
A new clinical trial is investigating opening up the blood-brain barrier in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. The trial will explore the benefits of low-intensity ultrasound.
The new clinical trial is being conducted at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, along with two other health centers, in order to test out a non-invasive procedure which deploys low-intensity focused ultrasound in order to open the blood-brain barrier. This involves using molecular vibrations to transfer energy from one position to another.
The blood-brain barrier is a protective layer (a semipermeable border) that stops infections or pathogens in the blood entering the brain. This barrier, formed of endothelial cells, prevents the delivery of candidate therapeutics to the brain to treat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. The new research is focused on how drugs might be delivered via the barrier by using the ultrasound technique.
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With the process, a magnetic resonance imaging guided technique enables medics to target a specific area of the brain where there is a buildup of toxic proteins called amyloid (which are associated with Alzheimer's disease). Following this, an ultrasound transducer is used, with the soundwaves passing through a water bath surrounding the patient's head. Here cold, degassed water is circulated. This arrangement helps transmission of 1,000 focused ultrasound beams from the machine through intact skull, all converging at the exact brain tissue that is being targeted. During this procedure, the patient’s bloodstream is infused with microbubbles. The focused ultrasound waves are delivered through the helmet-like device, which causes microbubbles in the blood to oscillate and open the blood-brain barrier.
According to lead researcher Dr. Vibhor Krishna, in commentary supplied to Digital Journal: "In this research study, we are not delivering any medications. Our hypothesis is that, by opening the blood brain barrier, a patient’s own immune defense may clear some of those harmful amyloids. If we determine this to be safe, in the next steps we would want to understand the effectiveness and the impact of opening the blood-brain barrier in improving cognitive decline."
The procedure is performed three times at two-week intervals to allow for as much amyloid clearance as possible. The results of the clinical trial will be published.
More about Alzheimer's disease, bloodbrain barrier, Neurodegenrative disease, Medical
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