Low-intensity ultrasound waves may improve cognitive dysfunction in patients with dementia and/or Alzheimer's disease, scientists suggest.
Applying low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) to the whole brain of the mice improved blood vessel formation and nerve cell regeneration without having obvious side effects.
The researchers believe that this type of therapy may also benefit humans.
"The LIPUS therapy is a non-invasive physiotherapy that could apply to high-risk elderly patients without the need for surgery or anaesthesia, and could be used repeatedly," said lead author Hiroaki Shimokawa from Tohoku University in Japan.
The team treated mice with vascular dementia on three alternative days, followed by a surgical procedure that limited the brain's blood supply.
The mice with a condition simulating Alzheimer's disease in humans received 11 LIPUS treatments over a period of three months.
The results, published in the journal Brain Stimulation, showed that cognitive impairment markedly improved in mice from both the groups when LIPUS was applied to the whole brain three times a day for 20 minutes each.
Further, genes related to the cells lining blood vessels were turned on. The team also found increased expression of an enzyme involved in blood vessel formation and a protein involved in nerve cell survival and growth.
Presently no curative treatments are available for vascular dementia or Alzheimer's disease which are the most common causes of dementia.
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