In the U.S. today, nearly six million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. More than 80,000 are also diagnosed with primary brain cancer each year with one-third of those being malignant. In addition to challenges in finding effective treatments, getting medicines to these areas of the brain is challenging. Failure to reach a specific target is often associated with both poor responses and toxic side effects. However, one new therapy, microbubbles, and focused ultrasound offer new hope for an array of brain disease treatment.
From conditions like Parkinson’s disease to malignant brain cancer, microbubbles and focused ultrasound offer great promise. In fact, one bold business, Insightec, could revolutionize many neuromedicine fields with its microbubbles and focused ultrasound system. Numerous trials are now ongoing for several neuromedicine conditions using this technique. Not only are microbubbles and focused ultrasound minimally invasive, but it also lacks significant side effects.
Solving Major Neuromedicine Challenges with Microbubbles Ultrasound
In treating brain disorders, there is one major obstacle in the way. The blood-brain barrier normally serves to protect our brain from circulating toxins and chemicals. But when a brain disorder exists, and treatment needs to target the brain, this barrier prevents effective care. However, researchers have found that the use of microbubbles and focused ultrasound temporarily disrupts the blood-brain barrier. This allows both natural immune mechanisms and medications the opportunity to treat a variety of brain conditions.
The way microbubbles work is by causing a brief disruption of cellular membranes and junctions between cells. Because focused ultrasound can target such a small area (within in a cubic millimeter), its effect is very precise. And the microbubbles respond to this focused ultrasound by “jiggling” and causing disruptions in the blood-brain barrier. Because of this, the combination of microbubbles and focused ultrasound can provide brain treatments in a very pinpoint manner.
Insightec and Its Contribution to Focused Ultrasound Therapy
Based in Israel, Insightec now has treatment centers for its therapy in four continents. Its MRI-guided, focused ultrasound has been used to treat various cancers in the body, as well as uterine fibroids. But its major breakthrough came with a helmet called Exablate Neuro.
In fact, Insightec received the prestigious Galien Foundation Award for the best new medical device in 2017.
Because the brain is inside a bony skull, prior attempts to use focused ultrasound has been met with difficulty. However, Insightec’s focused ultrasound “helmet” offers 1024 ultrasound waves that are able to extend past skull barriers. And with the addition of microbubbles, both ultrasound effects and medications can reach specific targets for care.
The Broad Potential of Microbubbles and Focused Ultrasound
In terms of neuromedicine, microbubbles have the potential to effectively help many brain-related conditions. For example, MRI-guided focused ultrasound has already been used to help individuals with tremor. Likewise, it is currently being used to treat malignant brain cancers like glioblastoma. More recent trials are ongoing for its use in Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s dementia.
Outside the nervous system, microbubbles and focused ultrasound have great potential as well. For example, chemotherapy drug delivery is done more precisely to other body tumors.
This again enhances treatment effects and reduces potential side effects especially if drugs are contained within microbubbles. In addition, focused ultrasound can target tumors and cause damage to them through targeted heating mechanisms. These are some of the likely uses of this innovative therapy moving forward.
Additional Brain Treatment Opportunities for the Future
The current research involving microbubbles is quite exciting. But additional research is exploring additional uses of this technology. Specifically, genetic therapies are being explored for brain disorders with the use of microbubbles and focused ultrasound. Viruses equipped with genetic material might get through the blood-brain barrier and provide genetically flawed cells provides A therapies. The treatment provide a possible means by which this could occur. Certainly, this is one innovative technology worth watching in regards to the future of neuromedicine.