Innovative Clinical Trial Explores Opening Blood-Brain Barrier In Fight Against Alzheimer’s

Focused ultrasound is used to open the blood-brain barrier and clear toxic proteins in the brain

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(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – A new clinical trial at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and two other sites is testing an innovative procedure that may provide hope in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. The non-invasive procedure opens the blood-brain barrier, a protective layer that shields the brain from infections or pathogens in the blood. However, this barrier also makes it nearly impossible to deliver therapeutics to the brain to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

    “While it’s protective and beneficial for day-to-day brain function, when we think about therapeutics, the blood-brain barrier poses a significant challenge,” said Dr. Vibhor Krishna, a neurosurgeon at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “The focused ultrasound procedure allows us to non-invasively access the brain tissue so treatment can be administered straight to the site of pathology.”

    MRI-guided imaging allows doctors to target a specific area of the brain where there is a buildup of toxic proteins called amyloid. Then, 1,000 focused ultrasound waves are delivered through a helmet-like device, which causes microbubbles in the blood to oscillate and open the blood-brain barrier. “In this research study, we are not delivering any medications. Our hypothesis is that, by opening the blood-brain barrier, a patient’s own immune defense may clear some of those harmful amyloids,” said Krishna. “If the procedure of deemed safe, the next step in this research will likely be using this transformative technology to deliver therapeutics to the brain.”

    The procedure is performed three times at two-week intervals to allow for as much amyloid clearance as possible. In the future, this method of opening the blood-brain barrier may also be applicable in developing new treatments for brain tumors and epilepsy.

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Dr. Vibhor Krishna (right) fits David Shorr with a helmet-like device used in a new clinical trial for Alzheimer’s Disease at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. The device uses MRI-guided imaging to deliver focused ultrasound to specific areas of the brain to open the blood-brain barrier.

Dr. Vibhor Krishna (right) reviews a brain image with MRI technician, Brett Bryan as a part of a new clinical trial at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

David and Kim Shorr work on a jigsaw puzzle together at their home. David was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease at the age of 56. He is one of the first in the United States to participate in this clinical trial at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

A new clinical trial at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center uses MRI-guided imaging to deliver focused ultrasound to the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

David Shorr walks his dog near his home. He was one of the first in the United States to undergo a new non-invasive procedure for Alzheimer’s Disease that may clear harmful proteins in the brain.

Dr. Vibhor Krishna reviews a brain image of a patient with Alzheimer’s Disease during a new procedure to open the blood-brain barrier at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.