Focused Therapeutic Ultrasound for Alzheimer’s Treatment

Focused Therapeutic Ultrasound for Alzheimer’s Treatment

Say the word Alzheimer’s and most people can cite how this memory stealing disease has affected their life in one way or another. You or someone you know most likely heard about its heart wrenching, wasting away symptoms or have experienced Alzheimer’s first hand as a dance in limbo with someone who lives but is no longer themselves.

Researchers have continually been studying the progression of Alzheimer’s which is estimated to afflict over 50 million people worldwide with some theorizing that that number is way too low. Most research has resulted in various drug therapies being able to slow down the disease. These drugs could have a long list of side effects and sporadic results depending on each patient.

However, there is a recent study that may bring hope to Alzheimer’s patients and their families. It is a treatment that goes beyond the helpful, yet band-aid approach of delaying the disease and instead claims that it may be able to restore memory.

Memory loss can be so severe with Alzheimer’s that some patients no longer recognize their own children. Those afflicted struggle to understand where they are and how they got there, seeing the world through such a small, fearful lens which can eventually lead to a grim end of life experience.

Plaques and Tangles

One possible cause of Alzheimer’s is the formation of neurotoxic amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. These are accumulated structures formed in the brain over a lifetime that, when unable to be detoxed from the body, could severely compromise memory and cognitive function.

Neurotoxic amyloid plaques – These structures are made up of too many sticky proteins called beta-amyloid molecules. They become stuck together forming lesions between brain neurons impeding normal function.

Neurofibrillary tangles – Defective compounds in the brain called tau proteins can turn into microtubules. These are small filaments that become twisted making it difficult for nutrients to be absorbed and cellular function to thrive. This is the mechanism of neurofibrillary tangles.


Focused Therapeutic Ultrasound (FTU) treatment is a non-invasive, non-drug technique that attempts to combat the chemical puzzle of Alzheimer’s. This treatment has shown some significant laboratory results by researchers at Australia’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI), University of Queensland.

Research team member, Jürgen Götz to comments,

“The ultrasound waves oscillate tremendously quickly, activating microglial cells that digest and remove the amyloid plaques that destroy brain synapses…We’re extremely excited by this innovation of treating Alzheimer’s without using drug therapeutics…The word ‘breakthrough’ is often misused, but in this case I think this really does fundamentally change our understanding of how to treat this disease, and I foresee a great future for this approach.”

FTU works by sending sound waves into brain tissue. These waves bounce off this intricate weave of pathways at super speeds to gently open the blood brain barrier (BBB).

It is the BBB that researchers feel becomes less permeable during Alzheimer’s causing the brain to struggle. When this is opened essential nutrients, particularly the protein albumin, can once again fully feed the brain and increase performance. In turn, immune defense cells called microglial, a major player in waste removal, displayed enhanced activity during FTU.

Microglial cells showed the ability to remove the brain strangling neurotoxic amyloid clumps in 75% of mice. This is a high enough number to take notice and continue such important research. The mice showed profound improvement in three cognitive tasks after receiving FTU treatment.

More to Do

Like any “breakthrough” it takes many steps to reach the ultimate goal. With FTU, it is not enough that beneficial results manifested in mice as the comparison to humans is minimal. Therefore, it is imperative to continue this research to determine the exact FTU protocol. Also, even though the word ultrasound may seem benign to most people, in the case of applying it to the brain, there can be some tissue death.

In addition, FTU does not address neurofibrillary tangles but this may be moot due to the fact that by simply clearing the brain of neurotoxic amyloid clumps, improvement is substantial.

Pub Med Health reports,

“This animal study found a technique using ultrasound directed at the brain reduces the number of amyloid plaques in mice…the results did show that by reducing the amount of amyloid plaques, the memory and spatial awareness of the mice improved.”

Even though this research is ongoing it just may be the answer to preventing or reducing Alzheimer’s symptoms in the not so distant future.