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A promising new treatment for Alzheimer’s uses sound waves instead of drugs to cure rather than treat the debilitating and deadly disease.

Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that eventually destroys the ability to carry out the most basic tasks of daily living.

An estimated 47 million people worldwide are living with dementia; Alzheimer’s being the most common form.  The associated cost to society is $605 billion annually. At current rates, the number of dementia cases is expected to increase to 76 million by 2030. A cure for the deadly disease of Alzheimer’s would have a bold impact saving millions of lives and billions of dollars, not to mention ending the suffering of millions of grieving families.

While drug treatments to manage symptoms are available, Alzheimer’s currently has no cure. Hopefully, that is about to change. A team of researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) has developed an ultrasound treatment with a 75% success rate curing Alzheimer’s disease in mice.

Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) has developed an ultrasound treatment with a 75% success rate curing Alzheimer’s in mice.

The team is currently working on modifying its equipment to penetrate the much thicker human skull safely.

The QBI treatment consists of first injecting air bubbles into the bloodstream. Next, sound waves are directed into the brain to cause the air bubbles to vibrate. The vibration opens the blood-brain barrier allowing proteins in the blood to enter the brain to stimulate the brain’s own waste removal process. Cells in the brain clean up the plaque and neurofibrillary tangles causing the Alzheimer’s.

To inform its work, the QBI team, in collaboration with peers worldwide, is generating and using a huge dataset, including brain scans of Alzheimer patients and animals and other images and data related to brain structure and function. The seven petabytes of data are managed in Oracle Hierarchical Storage Manager and are accessed using supercomputers.

According to Pankaj Sah, QBI’s forward-thinking director, if human trials are successful, the treatment could be available to the general public within five years.

Combining a bold idea with the analysis of petabytes of Big Data, this Australian team is on the path to an Alzheimer’s cure.

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