Dementia is a rapidly growing problem worldwide. Fifty million people experience dementia, and in the next 30 years it is expected that this number will triple.
Researchers are looking for ways to treat or prevent dementia, and a promising clinical trial is underway in the US.
Dementia is not a normal part of aging, but age is a major risk factor. Regular exercise, healthy diet, maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels help to remove dementia as we grow older
As people all over the world live longer, health agencies and researchers are looking for ways to prevent, stop or treat dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, one of the most common forms of dementia.
Clinical trial of commitments
David Shorr was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at 56. He is about to undergo a new procedure that could treat Alzheimer's early stage. He is with his doctor, Vibhor Krishna, a neurosurgeon at Wexner Ohio State Medical Center.
Shorr procedure involves sound waves. Ultrasound waves focus and open the blood-brain barrier – a protective layer that protects the brain from infections. But Krishna says that it is difficult to treat neurodegerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
“With the opening of blood-brain barriers, we can access more brain tissue and be able to increase the efficiency or bioavailability of therapy,” said Krishna.
Shorr and his wife, Kim, were willing to try out any new treatment that could help their dementia. Kim describes the couple's response when they received a phone call to Shorr to take part in a clinical trial.
“This test is there. Would you be interested? ”She said, describing the call. “And I don't really know what it was, we said, Sure.”
Ultrasound focuses on protein buildup
Shorr was one of 10 patients enrolled in the study. The test carries out an MRI-led imaging test to focus on the part of the brain responsible for memory and cognition. Krishna explains that Alpheimer's patients have buildup of toxic proteins called amyloid.
“Higher amyloid precipitation goes hand in hand with loss of function in Alzheimer's disease,” he said.
Krishna says that this procedure could allow the patient's own immune system to clean up some of the amyloid.
In this procedure, ultrasound wave pulses offer microscopic bubbles with expansion and contract in the brain.
“The increase and decrease in the size of these microbubbles mechanically opens the blood-brain barrier,” Krishna said.
The patient is awake during the procedure.
Study could help others
Opening the barrier one day may give doctors medicines delivered directly to the site of the disease.
Kim Shorr realizes that her husband may not benefit from this treatment.
“We are hopeful that he can help him, but we also know that he will help someone else,” she said.
Shorr is pleased to be part of a study that could help others in the early stages of Alzheimer's, even if it does not help him.
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