Spinal cord stimulator shows promise to treat Parkinsons disease

March 20th, 2009 - 2:15 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Mar 20 (ANI): A novel device implanted inside the spinal cord might offer an effective treatment against Parkinsons disease, according to a study.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Centre have developed a prosthetic device, which applies electrical stimulation to the dorsal column in the spinal cord, the main sensory pathway carrying tactile information from the body to the brain.

In an animal study, the team attached the device 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 behaviours of healthy mice and rats.

The improvement in motor skills was observed within 3.35 seconds after stimulation.

“We see an almost immediate and dramatic change in the animal’’s ability to function when the device stimulates the spinal cord,” said senior study investigator Dr Miguel Nicolelis, the Anne W. Deane Professor of Neuroscience at Duke.

“Moreover, it is easy to use, significantly less invasive than other alternatives to medication, such as deep brain stimulation, and has the potential for widespread use in conjunction with medications typically used to treat Parkinson’’s disease,” Nicolelis added.

When the device was used without additional medication, Parkinsonian animals were 26 times more active.

However, when stimulation was coupled with medication, only two doses of dopamine replacement therapy were needed to produce movement, compared to five doses when the medication was used by itself.

Nicolelis said that the low frequency seizures, or oscillations, seen in the animal model of Parkinson’’s disease had 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.

“Our device works as an interface with the brain to produce a neural state permissive for locomotion, facilitating immediate and dramatic recovery of movement,” said Per Petersson, co-author of the study.

“Following stimulation, the neurons desynchronize, similar to the firing pattern that you would see when a healthy mouse is continuously moving,” Petersson added.

The study appears in the journal Science (ANI)

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