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Spinal Cord Stimulator Sparks Hope for Parkinson's Disease

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Uploaded on Mar 19, 2009

The future treatment of Parkinson's disease may target the spinal cord instead of the brain to help alleviate the slow, rigid movements and tremors that are the hallmarks of the disease. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have developed and tested a first-of-its-kind device that rapidly restored motor function in mice with the symptoms of Parkinsons disease.

Miguel Nicolelis, M.D., Ph.D., senior study investigator and Anne W. Deane Professor of Neuroscience:

"We have discovered a new, semi-invasive way to produce a relief of Parkinson's disease motor symptoms that is very consistent, can last for long periods of time, that reduces significantly the risks for these patients, and can be done in the early stages of the disease in combination with small doses of pharmacological therapy."

The prosthetic device applies electrical stimulation to the part of the spinal cord that carries tactile information from the body to the brain. Researchers attached the device to the surface of the spinal cord in mice and rats with depleted levels of the chemical dopamine to mimic the biologic characteristics of someone with Parkinsons disease which produced impaired motor skills.

When the device was turned on (could have the video timed to have the mouse become active here), the researchers saw an almost immediate and dramatic change in the animals ability to move.

Miguel Nicolelis, M.D., Ph.D., senior study investigator and Anne W. Deane Professor of Neuroscience:

"This shows that a very unexpected pathway can have a very profound effect on the way the motor system operates. I don't think anybody though about treating Parkinson's disease with stimulation of the spinal cord, particularly the sensory component of the spinal cord. That shows to me that the interaction between sensory and motor component is much closer than anticipated in the past. it's part of the same system."

Researcher said this work addresses an important need because medication eventually stops working
in later stages of Parkinsons disease and an invasive surgery to stimulate neurons in the brain is the only other option for some patients.

The findings appear in the latest issue of the journal Science.

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