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Surgical technique halts cell loss, Parkinson's researchers find
Date:9/2/2008

CINCINNATIDeep brain stimulation, a surgical technique often viewed as a last resort for people with Parkinson's disease, halts the progression of dopamine-cell loss in animal models, according to preliminary research by scientists at the Neuroscience Institute at the University of Cincinnati (UC) and University Hospital.

The scientists also discovered clues to why the technique works. The act of stimulating neurons with electrodes boosted the amount of an important protein in animals' brains. The protein, a trophic factor known as BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), is a nurturing, growth-promoting chemical.

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative neurological disorder involving the death of dopamine-producing brain cells, or neurons.

"Demonstrating that deep brain stimulation halts the progression of dopamine-cell loss was basically a confirmation and extension of previous findings," says Caryl Sortwell, PhD, associate professor of neurology at UC and the study's lead investigator. "But finding the mechanism is a novel discovery that is even more critical. We now know not only that it works, we also are beginning to understand how it is working."

Sortwell recently announced her team's results at a professional conference held by the Cleveland Clinic and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The research holds important implications for patients with Parkinson's disease and could alter the current recommended timetable for surgical intervention.

In a typical treatment scenario, a patient has lost about 50 percent of his or her dopamine-producing neurons when symptoms first appear and a diagnosis is made. The typical patient then waits an average of 14 additional years before undergoing deep brain stimulation surgery. During that 14-year span, medications can offer symptomatic relief, but cell loss continues unabated. There is at present no cure for the disease.

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Contact: Cindy Starr
cstarr@mayfieldclinic.com
513-569-5321
University of Cincinnati
Source:Eurekalert

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