DURHAM, N.C. -- Researchers at Duke Medicine have shown that continuing spinal cord stimulation appears to produce improvements in symptoms of Parkinson's disease, and may protect critical neurons from injury or deterioration.
The study, performed in rats, is published online Jan. 23, 2014, in the journal Scientific Reports. It builds on earlier findings from the Duke team that stimulating the spinal cord with electrical signals temporarily eased symptoms of the neurological disorder in rodents.
"Finding novel treatments that address both the symptoms and progressive nature of Parkinson's disease is a major priority," said the study's senior author Miguel Nicolelis, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurobiology at Duke University School of Medicine. "We need options that are safe, affordable, effective and can last a long time. Spinal cord stimulation has the potential to do this for people with Parkinson's disease."
Parkinson's disease is caused by the progressive loss of neurons that produce dopamine, an essential molecule in the brain, and affects movement, muscle control and balance.
L-dopa, the standard drug treatment for Parkinson's disease, works by replacing dopamine. While L-dopa helps many people, it can cause side effects and lose its effectiveness over time. Deep brain stimulation, which emits electrical signals from an implant in the brain, has emerged as another valuable therapy, but less than 5 percent of those with Parkinson's disease qualify for this treatment.
"Even though deep brain stimulation can be very successful, the number of patients who can take advantage of this therapy is small, in part because of the invasiveness of the procedure," Nicolelis said.
In 2009, Nicolelis and his colleagues reported in the journal Science that they developed a device for rodents that sends electrical stimulation to the dorsal column, a main sensory pathway in the spinal cord carrying information
|Contact: Rachel Harrison|
Duke University Medical Center