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Brain cleaning

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Science

Brain cleaning

Ultrasound waves may restore memory

Australian researchers have developed a noninvasive, specifically focused type of ultrasound technology that, in preliminary animal studies, looks promising as a treatment method to restore lost memory function in Alzheimer’s patients.

Scientists have long known that a consistent feature of Alzheimer’s disease is the buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain. Amyloid is a general term for protein fragments that are normally produced in the body. A healthy brain breaks them down and eliminates them. But in patients with Alzheimer’s disease the protein fragments clump together between the nerve cells and form hard, sticky plaques that gum up brain functioning.

The researchers oscillated the ultrasound waves at high speeds in order to open temporarily the blood-brain barrier, a layer of the brain that protects it from bacteria and toxins. Then they beamed the ultrasound waves into the brain tissue and activated the waste-removing microglial cells that removed the plaque buildup.

Seventy-five percent of the mice that received the treatment recovered full memory function, according to ScienceAlert, and the results did not show any damage to surrounding brain tissue.

The researchers believe the discovery could be a breakthrough in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicts 50 million people worldwide. “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,” Jürgen Götz, research director for the Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research, said in a press release.

The researchers plan to begin running trials with larger animals, such as sheep, and hope to begin human trials in about two years.

Concealed connection

Neuroscientists at the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Medicine were shocked to discover a previously unknown direct connection between the brain and the immune system. Lymphatic vessels had eluded researchers by hiding behind a blood vessel that leads to the sinuses in an area of the brain that is difficult to image.

Although the scientists discovered this connection in the brains of mice, they believe the same anatomy exists in humans.

The lymphatic system transports lymph, a clear, colorless fluid containing white blood cells that helps rid the body of toxins. Scientists formerly believed lymphatic vessels did not go above the base of the skull. Jonathan Kipnis, professor in the UVA department of neuroscience, believes the large chunks of protein found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients may accumulate because these vessels are not efficiently removing them. 

The discovery, Kipnis told The Huffington Post, could have profound implications for the treatment of brain diseases such as autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis: “We believe that for every neurological disease that has an immune component to it, these vessels may play a major role.” —J.B.

The hole story

For over a century the holes in Swiss cheese have baffled scientists. Not only were scientists at a loss to explain the presence of the holes, but they also could not explain why the cheese has fewer holes than in the past. Now, scientists in Switzerland have solved the mystery: The holes are caused by tiny bits of hay in the milk.  

The researchers at Agroscope, a state center for agricultural research, noted that Swiss cheese has had fewer holes in the past 10 to 15 years as sealed milking machines have replaced open buckets and eliminated many hay particles in the milk. —J.B.

Comments

  • John Cogan's picture
    John Cogan
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 12:09 pm

    Gave them in IQ test? I suppose they would have to supply the mice with a tiny test paper and a very very small pencil.

  • Varenikje's picture
    Varenikje
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 12:09 pm

    Interesting, that does seem to be what they say, "Seventy five percent of the mice that received the treatment recovered full memory function."  So how exactly did they determine this, do you suppose?

  • Janet B
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 12:09 pm

    It is a funny picture, William H.

  • William H
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 12:09 pm

    Restore the memory of a mouse??