The University of Virginia School of Medicine has just concluded clinical trials on a new form of treatment for Parkinson’s disease and reports encouraging results.
Neurosurgeon and Principal Investigator Jeff Elias has successfully used focused ultra-sound on essential tremors. Now, he says, a pilot study indicates it works on Parkinson’s disease as well. “In our clinical trial, 62% tremor reduction was recorded in our treatment group and only 22% of a placebo response was noted in the control group.”
The control group was later offered the actual procedure. All had tremor that resisted medical treatment and they continued taking their existing Parkinson’s medication. “This study showed that a select group of Parkinson’s patients…namely those that are tremor-dominant in their symptoms, can benefit from ultrasound treatments.”
Focused ultrasound is not yet approved the the FDA for Parkinson’s disease, but has been used successfully at UVA for essential tremor. “Focused ultrasound received approval in 2016 for the treatment of essential tremor. It was only natural that we would apply this incredible technology to a slightly more complicated problem which is Parkinson’s Disease.”
Parkinson’s disease affects about one million Americans. And while there is no cure, medication and surgery are widely used to reduce symptoms.
”These preliminary results are exciting and we are hopeful that further investigation will continue with Parkinson’s disease.”
The median age of the clinical trial participants was 67.8 years, 27 were enrolled in the study, 20 received the actual ultrasound treatment. The most significant side effects were mild numbness on one side of the body, which improved. Focused ultrasound generates waves inside the body that creates a hotspot, and by carefully controlling the process, researchers can interrupt faculty brain circuits or destroy unwanted circuits.
“There are several other disorders on the horizon to study with focused ultrasound, including pain problems, epilepsy and brain tumor therapies.”
UVA has been a pioneer in the use of focused ultrasound. Dr. Elias believes a larger, multi-center study is needed to better define its role in treating Parkinson’s, but is encouraged by their preliminary results.