Scientists Reveal Promising Results for Treating Parkinson’s

Scientists Reveal Promising Results for Treating Parkinson's

Parkinson’s Foundation evaluates that at the moment, there are more than ten million people in the world who have Parkinson’s disease. A new study in the journal Science focuses on improving deep brain stimulation in Parkinson’s disease therapy.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes progressive neuronal damage. It affects dopamine-producing neurons in the substantia nigra, a specific area of the brain, which leads to the loss of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The most effective Parkinson’s disease medication is a dopamine substitute called levodopa. Nevertheless, after some time, the drug stops being effective, which can cause motor fluctuations in some of the patients.

When the medication becomes ineffective, physicians try to lessen the severity of the symptoms by using high-frequency deep brain stimulation. This procedure is used to treat many conditions, such as dystonia, epilepsy, trembling, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It was introduced in 1989 to reduce the tremors of patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Although some of the symptoms may respond well to this electrical stimulation, this procedure has some disadvantages. For instance, the patients can experience increased depression, impulse-control disorders, and psychosis. In addition to that, when the stimulation stops, the initially improved symptoms will come back very quickly.

A group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh used previous work as a basis for their study. Former studies found that optogenetic control of certain targeted neurons can provide long-standing healing effects in dopamine-depleted mice. Scientists implement this method to activate or slow down particular neuron activity by using light.

The researchers discovered they could use short bursts of electrical stimulation to target certain neurons. These therapeutic procedures provided long-lasting healing benefits in the laboratory mice by restoring and maintaining movement a few hours after stimulation.

The researchers who conducted this study used a mouse model since optogenetics is still in its initial stages in human disease models.

Photo by Eduardo Barrios on Unsplash

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