Researchers have already successfully reversed Alzheimer’s disease in mice by using scanning ultrasound treatments. The University of Queensland researchers are now convinced that the same treatment can benefit healthy brains by slowing down aging.
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease which causes behavioral changes, and above all, memory loss. The study found that ultrasound scanning prevented degeneration of cells in the brains of healthy mice.
Dr. Robert Hatch, researcher at the Queensland Brain Institute, explained, “We found that, far from causing any damage to the healthy brain, ultrasound treatments may in fact have potential beneficial effects for healthy aging brains.”
“In a normal brain the structure of neuronal cells in the hippocampus, a brain area extremely important for learning and memory, is reduced with age,” he noted.
Treating mice with the scanning ultrasound prevented the reduction in structure, according to Hatch, which led researchers to believe that the technique could allow scientists to keep the brain’s structure younger as we get older.
The team is currently performing tests to see if the preservation of the brain cell structure will improve the loss of memory and learning that commonly occurs with aging.
Over the course of six weeks, the mice were either treated with one or six ultrasound scannings. Brain cell function and structure were monitored two hours, one day, one week, and three months post-treatment.
In their next set of studies, the researchers will test the effects of ultrasound on brain structure and function among older mice.
The same lab previously discovered that ultrasound can reverse Alzheimer’s disease in mice. The treatment temporarily opens up the blood-brain barrier. This allows for the clearance of toxins, which allows memory function to be restored.
Dementia cases are expected to continue to rise by 2050 as populations continue to age. Dr. Hatch concluded, “Collectively, this research is fundamentally changing our understanding of not only how to treat Alzheimer’s but to maintain general brain health.”
“Research finds that ultrasound slows brain ageing,” The University of Queensland UQ news, https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2016/10/research-finds-ultrasound-slows-brain-ageing, last accessed October 12, 2016.