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How Sound Waves Help Deliver Medicine to the Brain

Under most circumstances, the bones and cells protecting our brain are a blessing. But when it comes to delivering vital medicine to patients with disorders such as Alzheimer’s, scientists have turned to creative solutions to infiltrate the brain’s defenses.

The fact that your brain is protected by both the skull and a thick barrier of discerning cells is, for the most part, a good thing. One can only imagine how lousy it would be if every little toxin or substance could infiltrate your body’s central processing center.

But sometimes the brain’s blessing can also be a doctor’s curse, especially when trying to treat disorders such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. This is because just as your head’s defenses keep pathogen out from the sensitive areas of the brain, they also set up a roadblock for vital medicines needed to fight disease.

According to this piece by Bret Stetka in Scientific American, a team of Canadian scientists has decided to get creative by harnessing the power of sound waves:

“Kullervo Hynynen, a medical physicist at Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto, and a team of physicians are trying out a technique that involves giving patients a drug followed by an injection of microscopic gas-filled bubbles. Next patients don a cap that directs sound waves to specific brain locations, an approach called high-intensity focused ultrasound. The waves cause the bubbles to vibrate, temporarily forcing apart the cells of the blood-brain barrier and allowing the medication to infiltrate the brain.”

As Stetka writes, utilizing ultrasound to create lesions in the brain could become a prevalent alternative to risky brain surgeries. Such an advance would be incredibly helpful considering the emergence of implanted electrodes to treat disorders such as Parkinson’s. Researchers are also taking a closer look at whether sound waves could be utilized to combat lesser afflictions such as migraines and OCD.

Read Stetka’s entire piece over at Scientific American and let us know what you think.

Photo credit: everything possible / Shutterstock


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