Applying Ultrasound To The Brain May Help Reverse Dementia

The evolution of Radiology

Radiology has revolutionized medical diagnostics. It started out as a simple discovery made by accident when Physics professor Rontgen stumbled on it in 1895. Since then, newer better technologies have arisen which has made non-invasively diagnosing all medical conditions much easier. However, X-rays can cause adverse radiation effects when exposed to it and are classified as a carcinogenic by the World Health Organization.

Ultrasound Therapy To Treat Dementia

Ultrasound Therapy To Treat Dementia

CT scan and X-rays have been a major risk factor for developmental abnormalities and Cancer. Studies estimate 0.4% of cancers in the United States to be attributed to CT scan conducted in the past.

Ultrasound And its Applications

On the other hand, Ultrasounds are non-carcinogenic and are in fact simple sound waves used to create a form of video graphic imaging of the human organs. Ultrasounds are used now as diagnostic tools in all with minimal risk factors. It is safe to be used in pregnant women without the risk of developmental abnormalities.

Ultrasound for physiotherapy in Dementia

As of now, the application of ultrasound has been limited to diagnostic imaging. A recent discovery by scientists from Tohoku University suggests that ultrasound may be therapeutically beneficial for people with dementia. The therapy is based on a novel use of ultrasounds to improve cognitive functions of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The scientists performed experiments, which show improvement in the cognitive functions of mice models with dementia.

The Tohoku scientists sent low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) waves through brains of the model mice. During the experiment, the research team made some amazing findings: the waves seemed to promote vascular neogenesis (creation od new blood vessels) as well as regeneration of nerve cells. No adverse side effects were reported at the end of the experiment, which led the scientists to believe the therapy could be utilized in humans with dementia as well.

Hiroaki Shimokawa, a researcher at Tohoku University and part of the team of LIPUS researchers stated,” LIPUS therapy is non-invasive physiotherapy that may apply to high-risk elderly patients without the need for anesthesia or surgery, and may even be used repeatedly.”

Dementia is a devastating illness with 10 million new cases diagnosed each year. Despite the worldwide prevalence of dementia, it has no cure and is an irreversible condition.
The brain is a complex organ with a compact arrangement of blood vessels. It has its own barrier, named the blood-brain barrier, which is a defense mechanism to prevent the entry of large molecules and foreign organisms.

LIPUS therapy was applied to the whole brain of model mice with vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s disease for 20 minutes three times a day. In some model mice, the blood supply to the brain was reduced to simulate vascular dementia. These model mice underwent LIPUS treatment on the first, third, and fifth days after surgery. The mice resembling Alzheimer’s disease were each given 11 LIPUS treatments for the duration of three months.

Findings revealed LIPUS therapy activated genes involved in cells that made up the endothelium of the blood vessels. LIPUS therapy also increased the activity of an enzyme responsible for promoting blood vessel formation.

The technology is in the initial stages of the clinical trial for physiotherapy in dementia to evaluate its efficacy and safety in Humans.

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