As the average life expectancy grows longer around the world, several age-related diseases have become increasingly prevalent. Among these conditions growing more common in the aging populations of Europe, Japan and Korea is Alzheimer’s disease. With no known cure or treatment to slow disease progression, Alzheimer’s has widespread effects on patients and their families and caregivers, along with significant economic impacts.
A recent study by scientists at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) in Korea has sought to address this growing problem. Their research shows that ultrasound-based gamma entrainment may prove an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s patients. A naturally occurring process when subjects are subjected to repetitive stimuli, ultrasound-based gamma entertainment connects gamma waves in the brain with an external oscillation at a certain frequency.
In prior studies conducted on mice, scientists have found that gamma entrainment can ward off the development of β-amyloid plaques and tau protein accumulations, which is a common marker for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers found that gamma entrainment could be initiated in the brains of Alzheimer’s-model mice with ultrasound pulses at 40 Hz, a significant point in the gamma frequency band.
The authors believe that a particular benefit of potential ultrasound-based treatment is its gentle and non-invasive administration.
“Compared with other gamma entrainment methods that rely on sounds or flickering lights, ultrasound can reach the brain non-invasively without disturbing our sensory system,” says study co-leader Jae Gwan Kim in a statement. “This makes ultrasound-based approaches more comfortable for the patients.”
Results show that mice exposed to two hours a day of ultrasound pulses for two consecutive weeks experienced lowered levels of β-amyloid plaque concentration and tau protein in the brain. Electroencephalographic analyses also reveal that the mice gained improvements in their functional performance, leading scientists to believe that brain connectivity may be positively impacted by ultrasound treatment. The treatment also did not result in any mechanical harm to brain tissue, with the mice showing no signs of microbleeding (brain hemorrhages).
Researchers hope that their results may make a step toward new non-invasive, side-effect-free treatment options for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Beyond Alzheimer’s, they also believe that their findings may be applicable in the treatment of other neurodegenerative diseases.
“While our approach can significantly improve the quality of life of patients by slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, it could also offer a new solution to other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease,” says study co-author Dr. Tae Kim.
This study is published in Translational Neurodegeneration.
Article by Anna Landry