March 07, 2023

New Parkinson’s Disease Treatment Offers Hope

Doctors may soon have a new tool to treat Parkinson’s disease (PD), as a recent study focusing on the use of ultrasound as a form of treatment has shown promising results.

Roughly 10 million people worldwide live with PD, and it is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease.

Typical PD treatment involves medication to limit the degeneration of certain nerve cells in the brain, which helps with movement and coordination, although the doses and side effects are unique to each case. Another treatment involves surgically implanting a brain electrode for stimulation, but it does carry some risk.

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) have conducted a clinical trial that saw 94 PD patients tested with a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) method: applying ultrasonic energy directly to the globus pallidus, the part of the brain that controls voluntary movement.

Since this method is non-invasive and is practically harmless, the patients can remain awake during the procedure to provide real-time feedback for fine adjustments.

The results were positive: almost 70% of the subjects recorded an improvement in their tremors, mobility and other associated symptoms. They continued to have positive responses resulting from the treatment a year later – this is expected to continue for another four more years.

Exciting as the outcomes are, UMSOM scientists are still collating the data as only one side of the brain is being stimulated, and there are temporary side effects such as slurred speech and loss of speech. There have been calls for “longer and larger trials” to fine-tune the MRI process and apply it to both sides of the brain.

Nevertheless, study co-author, Dr Howard Eisenberg, thinks the results are “promising” and offers hope for those suffering from the disease.