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Focused ultrasound breaches blood-brain barrier in people with Alzheimer’s disease

Jul 26, 2018

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World-first study demonstrates the technique’s safety and feasibility

A team of Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI) scientists led a clinical trial demonstrating that focused ultrasound can open the blood-brain barrier in a specific region safely, reversibly and repeatedly in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

The study was published July 25, 2018 in Nature Communications and is the first printed report of its kind. Dr. Nir Lipsman, a scientist at SRI and neurosurgeon at Sunnybrook, is lead author of the study. The co-principal investigator is Dr. Sandra Black, a world leader in dementia research and director of the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Research Program. The physics lead of the study is Dr. Kullervo Hynynen, director of Physical Sciences. He pioneered the technology in collaboration with industry partner Insightec. In the Phase 1 trial, the researchers used focused ultrasound-stimulated microbubbles guided by MRI to open the blood-brain barrier in five people with early-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. This opening, which was temporary, did not cause harm or result in lower cognitive test scores.

The proof-of-concept study paves the way for future trials looking at the effects of using focused ultrasound to deliver targeted therapeutics for various brain disorders. The research was done in the Centre for Research in Image-Guided Therapeutics at SRI, and is part of the institute’s Focused Ultrasound Research Program.

Read the full story at the New York Times.