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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Australian researchers challenge Alzheimer’s paradigm, questioning role of amyloid plaque clearance

Health Industry Hub | April 9, 2024 |

Pharma News: Researchers say targeting amyloid plaque in the brain is not essential to deliver cognitive improvement in neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, which is the leading cause of disability in the aging population, accounting for up to 80% of all cases of dementia.

In a study conducted by Dr Gerhard Leinenga and Professor Jürgen Götz at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) at the University of Queensland (UQ), the conventional understanding of Alzheimer’s disease treatment has been challenged. The duo’s findings suggest that the widely accepted approach of targeting and clearing amyloid plaques in the brain may not be the sole key to improving cognition in Alzheimer’s patients.

“Amyloid plaques are clumps of protein that can build up in the brain and block communication between brain cells, leading to memory loss and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease,” explained Dr Leinenga.

Traditionally, efforts in Alzheimer’s research by pharmaceutical companies such as Eli Lilly and Biogen have centred around clearing the amyloid plaque. However, the UQ team’s research took a different path. Instead of relying on microbubbles to open the blood-brain barrier, they solely utilised scanning ultrasound and observed memory enhancement.

“Our study indicates that ultrasound alone can induce significant cognitive improvements in the brain,” Dr Leinenga emphasised. “This challenges the notion that amyloid plaque clearance is the sole determinant of cognitive improvement.”

Moreover, Professor Götz highlighted the importance of frequency in ultrasound therapy, revealing that their study uncovered varying effectiveness depending on the frequency used.

“We tested two types of ultrasound waves at different frequencies,” said Professor Götz. “Our results indicate that higher frequencies yielded superior outcomes compared to those currently explored in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease patients.”

The implications of this research are profound. Not only does it offer a new perspective on Alzheimer’s treatment, but it also provides potential insights for personalised therapy strategies.

“We believe that ultrasound directly affects neurons, enhancing plasticity and improving brain networks,” Dr Leinenga explained. “This suggests that ultrasound may boost the brain’s resilience to amyloid plaques, even without directly targeting them.”

Looking ahead, the researchers are eager to integrate these findings into Professor Götz’s ongoing safety trial, which employs non-invasive ultrasound to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

“Understanding the mechanisms behind ultrasound therapy allows us to tailor treatment strategies for maximum cognitive improvement in patients,” Dr Leinenga stated optimistically. “This represents a significant step forward in the quest for personalized, effective therapies for neurodegenerative disorders.”

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