Ultrasound treatments could be the key to restoring memory function for people with Alzheimer's disease, researchers say.
A decade of research at the University of Queensland, through the Queensland Brain Institute, has led to a 12-month trial to determine whether ultrasound treatments are safe for patients with the disease.
The trial is under way at the university and Mater Hospital Brisbane, where a maximum of 12 people will receive four fortnightly treatments before a brain MRI scan and a cognitive test.
Brain institute researchers, led by Jurgen Gotz, have developed a fit-for-purpose ultrasound device to be used in the trial.
"There is currently no effective treatment for Alzheimer's, so it is hugely rewarding that we could in the future potentially treat the disease with ultrasound," Professor Gotz said.
The study follows research published in 2015 that found ultrasounds could clear amyloid-b plaque build-up - the "hallmark of Alzheimer's disease", according to researchers - and improve memory functions.
The trial is being overseen by researcher and neurologist Peter Nestor, who said the doctors involved were treating an area at the back of the brain that was affected early in the course of Alzheimer's disease.
The Queensland government has put $5 million into the brain institute to help develop and trial the fit-for-purpose ultrasound device.
"The safety trial starting now brings (the university) one step closer to a potential world dementia treatment breakthrough, made and developed in Queensland," Innovation Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said.
The study was an exciting milestone for the Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research, which is set up within the brain institute, institute director Pankaj Sah said.
"The use of ultrasound to treat the most prevalent form of dementia is enormously exciting because it tackles one of the biggest health challenges of our time."
Alzheimer's disease is Australia's second leading cause of death.