Research finds it safe to open the blood-brain barrier in people affected by Alzheimer's disease

A phase 1 trial, reported in Nature Communications, has found that blood‒brain barrier (BBB) can be non-invasively and reversibly opened in five patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

The early results suggest that the procedure is safe, but it is unclear from the research how effective this is.

The blood‒brain barrier (BBB) represents an obstacle for the delivery of therapeutics to the brain. Researchers in this study used focused ultrasound in combination with injectable microbubbles to effectively open the BBB and to promote amyloid clearance in humans with Alzheimer’s disease. It has also been delivered to patients with brain tumours using an implanted device.

Kathryn Smith, Alzheimer’s Society Chief Operating Officer, said:

'The blood brain barrier is an essential protective barrier, preventing toxins from getting in to the brain. However it presents a challenge for potential treatments for dementia which need to enter the brain to have an effect.

'It’s fascinating that these researchers demonstrated they could temporarily open this barrier to the brain using this new technology, with the aim of one day helping vital dementia drugs get to where they’re needed.

'This early stage trial of the approach looked at five people with Alzheimer’s Disease and didn’t have any safety concerns, but the next step will be further testing in more people to ensure it is safe, and find out whether its effective.

'There has been no new drug for dementia in fifteen years and with someone new developing dementia once every three minutes in the UK, the need for innovative research and technology has never been greater.

'Studies like this help to build our knowledge piece by piece and provide much needed ways to deliver treatments in the future.'

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