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Australia Medicine Science

New Alzheimer's Treatment Fully Restores Memory Function For Mice 109

New submitter wrp103 writes Australian researchers have come up with a non-invasive ultrasound technology [abstract] that clears the brain of neurotoxic amyloid plaques — structures that are responsible for memory loss and a decline in cognitive function in Alzheimer's patients. A slice: Publishing in Science Translational Medicine, the team describes the technique as using a particular type of ultrasound called a focused therapeutic ultrasound, which non-invasively beams sound waves into the brain tissue. By oscillating super-fast, these sound waves are able to gently open up the blood-brain barrier, which is a layer that protects the brain against bacteria, and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to move in. Microglila cells are basically waste-removal cells, so once they get past the blood-brain barrier, they’re able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps before the blood-brain barrier is restored within a few hours. The team reports fully restoring the memories of 75 percent of the mice they tested it on, with zero damage to the surrounding brain tissue. They found that the treated mice displayed improved performance in three memory tasks - a maze, a test to get them to recognise new objects, and one to get them to remember the places they should avoid.
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New Alzheimer's Treatment Fully Restores Memory Function For Mice

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  • shortly after their human friend dies.

  • by deadweight ( 681827 ) on Saturday March 21, 2015 @03:57PM (#49309539)
    So..I'll find myself in a nursing home one day with no idea how I got there, my car will be sold, my pr0n erased, and my wife partying it up with the pool boy? I can see some surprises in store when they fire this up.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday March 21, 2015 @04:10PM (#49309587) Journal
      Unless society develops a sudden interest in increasing the supply of confused and sickly old people, I have to assume that this treatment would be something you do(hopefully you don't have to keep repeating it ever week thereafter forever) when you first start to detect Alzheimer's type memory issues, in order to prevent them from causing any further damage to prior memory or interfering with continued new memory formation; so that there is never any significant period of discontinuity.

      There will be the somewhat interested medical-ethics question of what to do after it(or some other treatment) is first demonstrated to work: Since there will already be a substantial population of Alzheimer's patients, who have lost varying degrees of prior memory and memory function because no (effective) treatment was available; there will be people, probably a lot of them (10s of thousands or more, in all likelihood, counting only countries wealthy enough that treating them is even on the table as a possibility) who have already irreplaceably lost much or all of their past memories; but could be treated such that they would remember subsequent events.

      I imagine that, on the plus side, such treatment would decrease the confusion, fear, and substantial helplessness that such patients face; but that coming back with capacity for new memories but little or nothing about the past has its own challenges.
      • Yes, this will be interesting - but the results may not be as scary as you might think. Assuming this pans out (the first three letters of the word assume are...) and the results are clinically apparent, even a modest benefit would save 'the system' quite a bit of money. Alzehiemer's patients are very expensive to maintain. They live for years, they can be otherwise healthy. They need a lot of human supervision (which doesn't come cheap).

        So even if the equipment manufacturers charge and arm and leg for

        • The parent poster is right. I watched a grandmother in my family slowly fade away with Alzheimer's Disease, eventually succumbing to kidney disease. (Oftentimes, Alzheimer's doesn't kill the patient directly, but something else does.) I don't know how much her medication costed, but she required increasing human supervision as the illness progressed. When they could no longer care for her at home, they institutionalized her at great cost. I think that financial assistance is available to those who quali
      • by Altrag ( 195300 )

        I can't think of any scenario where being cured and missing memories is in any way better than still missing those memories but having your brain slowly being eaten away and losing even more memories.

        These are already confused and sickly old people.. curing them if such a thing is possible will mean that they can eventually become less confused. Probably with a lot of therapy and rehab, similar to what we do after significant physical trauma leaves a person's body incapacitated.

        But absolutely, the people w

      • There would be no debate at all, even for those who have experienced extreme memory loss. They might not remember their past, but the ability to retain new memories would mean they could relearn it. To give an example, when my grandmother was suffering from Alzheimer's there were days she didn't know her own daughters even though she would see them every day. Just the ability to remember from day to day who someone is would make it worth performing the treatment.
      • Do we know for sure that they have "lost" their memories, and haven't instead lost the ability to access the memories? At least the cliched "they sometimes remember their kids" moments seem to imply the latter.

        Computer analogy: The hard drive's still there, but not plugged in.

        Car analogy: The gas tank's full, but the fuel line is plugged.

    • , my pr0n erased,

      NOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooo!

      • Thats what backups are for.

    • I have a feeling that having potentially just cheated death for a few more decades would be somewhat of a mitigating factor.

      And the above problem is something that people WITHOUT any disease have to deal with...

      PS: Personal opinion: You have a flash car, pool boy and so are rich and just escaped a horrible death? My heart bleeds for you...not...
    • There's starting to be some interesting science fiction about the problems of what happens when we can cure Alzheimer's.

      And I suspect Sir Terry Pratchett would have volunteered to try this if they'd announced it a few months earlier.

  • Why teh fuck did I start this? Oh yeah. I'm game. I need my brain to be ultrasounded asap.

  • by hey! ( 33014 )

    Just as a rough comparison, a mouse brain weighs 0.4 g, a human brain 1320 g. So right off the bat I'd be skeptical of whether this could be scaled up to treat humans. But still, it's a very interesting result.

    • How much does a bird brain weigh, but they're such good musicians, and migrate thousands of miles?

  • If this works, it will be a big money-saver by emptying a lot of "homes" where people need 24/7 care because of their mental condition and the accompanying physical problems.
  • This is the best news i have gotten in a while!! I can't believe there is now a cure for .. ummm let me read the article again
  • What was this article about again?
  • while there is right now a really promising result from Biogen, in clinical trials on humans:

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/102521170

    THAT is news. Not some un-vetted academic work, interesting as it might be, which will need at least 10 more years of experimentation before human trials, if this approach does not die before (at least 98% probability, but of course I wish the researchers luck).

    I think Slashdot needs more expertise in selecting science stories.

    • Well, Biogen's drug may have its place but it isn't exactly a Speedy Gonzales, and its side-effects include brain swelling.

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/ma... [forbes.com]
      "Wall Street analysts predict could get the drug to market by 2020"

      Also, this research is more elegant - it uses your blood's own cleanup cells to fight the plaques, versus injecting you with a foreign antibody like Biogen's does.

  • This is potentially an amazing breakthrough! Let's hope it does scale up safely for human trails.
  • Brain blood barrier (Score:4, Interesting)

    by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Saturday March 21, 2015 @10:24PM (#49311147)

    The brain blood barrier is not just a fence against bacterias (evolution would have gave us blood barriers for other critical organs). It is also there to prevent neurotransmitters to leak or to break in.

    For instance, eating dopamine does not increase dopamine in the brain. If you want to increase dopamine, you can either take a drug that prevent it from being cleared, or eat a precursor that can cross the barrier like Tyrosine, or closer, L-dopa, but here the brain remain capable to regulate dopamine increase.

  • This is one of the first things that promise to be effective. Of course, it will still take a decade or so to be safe, but given the tremendous loss Alzheimer patients face, even significant risk would be worth it.

  • "clears the brain of neurotoxic amyloid plaques...". On autopsy, some alzheimers patients have been seen to have had no amyloid plaque while others who had no symptoms of alzheimers had large amounts of amyloid plaque... The brain produces it's own insulin and the high levels of fructose and related sugars in western diets result in Type 3 diabetes. Fructose is to alzheimers now as smoking was to lung cancer in the 20th century... But there's another important contributing factor, which is how the brain cre
  • a maze, a test to get them to recognise new objects, and one to get them to remember the places they should avoid.

    I really, really want to see that third test.

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