Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New hope for patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease ?

A novel method for the treatment of patients suffering from parkinson's disease (and probably will be the first of its kind in the history of the treatment of Parkinson's disease- if established) has been achieved by Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, Deane Professor of Neuroscience at Duke. The research is of great importance becoz., of the fact that the researchers have developed a prosthetic device that applies electrical stimulation to the dorsal column in the spinal cord (which is a main sensory pathway carrying tactile information from the body to the brain). The device was attached to the surface of the spinal cord in mice and rats with depleted levels of the chemical dopamine - mimicking the biologic characteristics of someone with Parkinson's disease along with the impaired motor skills seen in advanced stages of the disease. When the device was turned on, the dopamine-depleted animals' slow, stiff movements were replaced with the active behaviors of healthy mice and rats. Improved movement was typically observed within 3.35 seconds after stimulation.

More interesting about this research is the fact, when the device was used without additional medication, Parkinsonian animals were 26 times more active. When stimulation was coupled with medication, only two L-DOPA doses were needed to produce movement compared to five doses when the medication was used by itself. When I talked to a Physiotherapist, he was also unaware of the basis behind this invention. But the explaination given by the authors is something interesting and justifies it i.e., the rhythmic brain activity in the animals with Parkinson's disease resembled the mild, continuous, low-frequency seizures that are seen in those with epilepsy. One effective therapy for treating epilepsy involves stimulating the peripheral nerves, which facilitate communication between the spinal cord and the body. Researchers took that concept and developed a modified approach for a Parkinson's disease model. The low frequency seizures, or oscillations, seen in the animal model of Parkinson's disease have been observed in humans with the condition. Stimulating the dorsal column of the spinal cord reduces these oscillations, which researchers believe creates the ability to produce motor function. Congrats Dr. Nicole, and hope with more studies this method becomes a ray of hope for those sufferers..

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