Study finds more effective way to treat disease

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A new study could help improve deep brain stimulation therapy for people with Parkinson’s disease. Erdark / Getty Images
  • Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative neurological disease.
  • Healthcare professionals have long used electrical stimulation to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but prolonged use can cause serious side effects.
  • A recent study suggests that electrical stimulation delivered in short bursts to targeted locations may improve the longevity and effectiveness of treatment.

The Parkinson Foundation believes that more than 10 million people around the world are currently living with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological condition that gets progressively worse. It is characterized by tremors, slowness of movement and muscle stiffness.

The new study, published in the journal Science, is studying a way to improve deep brain stimulation in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease develops due to the progressive degeneration of neurons in a part of the brain called black substance. The death of these neurons leads to a deficiency in the neurotransmitter dopamine.

The main treatment option for Parkinson’s disease is the drug levodopa. This drug is a substitute for dopamine. However, it loses its effectiveness over time, and some people may develop motor complications as a result of its use.

Once Parkinson’s disease medications stop working, doctors can use high-frequency deep brain stimulation to help reduce symptoms.

Doctors are now using electrical deep brain stimulation to treat a growing list of illnesses, including dystonia, tremors, and epilepsy, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder.

In 1989, scientists successfully applied this technology for the first time to reduce tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease. Since its initial clinical use, experts have developed and refined the stimulation technique.

Some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease respond well to this type of treatment. However, there are several drawbacks to electrical stimulation, including worsening depression, psychosis, and impulse control disorders.

In addition, the symptoms that treatment initially improves will reappear relatively quickly when the stimulation stops.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh based their recent study on previous work. The results of previous studies indicate that optogenetic manipulation certain targeted neurons may provide long-lasting therapeutic effects in dopamine-depleted mice.

Optogenetics is a technique that allows scientists to activate or inhibit specific neuronal activity through the use of light. Because optogenetics is still in its infancy in models of human disease, the authors of this study chose to use a mouse model.

The researchers found that they could target specific neurons with brief pulses of electrical stimulation. By delivering stimulation in short bursts instead of continuously applying it, they could target specific neurons.

These targeted treatments restored and maintained movement several hours after stimulation and provided long-lasting therapeutic benefits in laboratory mice.

Dr Brian Kopell, director of the Center for Neuromodulation at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, said Medical News Today that this study offers innovative options for possible future therapies for Parkinson’s disease.

“[The authors] noted that it is possible to modulate these circuits according to a dimension that is often overlooked, ”said Dr. Kopell. “We tend to think mainly in terms of or put the stimulation and not when put the stimulation.

In an accompanying editorial, the authors state: “The Spix study et al. is an excellent example of “inspired by optogenetics” [deep brain stimulation] and can pave the way for more robustness [deep brain stimulation] approaches that can ultimately be transposed to humans.

However, it is important to note, as Dr Kopell said MNT, that this study used a rodent model. So, until we see similar results in humans or non-human primates, we should try to reduce our arousal.

That said, the study authors hope this treatment approach can be transposed to humans. If it is transposable to humans, it could represent a major therapeutic advance for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

They are confident that scientists will soon be able to test their burst stimulation protocol in people with Parkinson’s disease, as the frequencies are within a range already approved for clinical use.

As they explain in their article:

“Our burst [deep brain stimulation] protocol can be provided through [deep brain stimulation] implants and falls under the United States Food and Drug Administration [FDA]-approved stimulation frequencies, allowing immediate testing in [Parkinson’s disease] models across species, including [humans]. “

The researchers conclude that the study demonstrates how fundamental knowledge about the organization and function of neurons in the brain can help healthcare professionals tune the specificity of electrical stimulation, “ultimately extending the therapeutic benefits of [deep brain stimulation] beyond those obtained with conventional methods.

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