Brain implant could ‘reverse’ Parkinson’s symptoms, experiment reveals

To improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, a UK hospital is testing the safety and effectiveness of a new type of brain implant. For now, a single patient has already undergone the surgery and lives with the device. At the moment, the volunteer reports that the impact of technology on his life has been “amazing”.

The team of doctors and surgeons at Southmead Hospital, located in the English city of Bristol, has been following the effects of the tiny implant since November 2020 on patient Tony Howelles. In addition to him, another 24 patients with diagnosed Parkinson’s will be able to test the technology, as part of the ongoing clinical study.

In an experiment, scientists test a brain implant that can reverse symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (Image: Reproduction/Keybal/Envato)

Is Parkinson’s Curable?

It is worth explaining that, until now, science has not yet discovered a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Therefore, most available treatments seek to slow the progression of the disease, marked by the decline of certain brain cells.

With the evolution of the condition, the person tends to report involuntary tremors in specific parts of the body, greater slowness of movements and stiffness of muscles. In general, patients develop the first symptoms after age 50.

What does the new brain implant do?

In this scenario, the researchers investigated ways to reverse the neurodegenerative condition. This new implant is a device for deep brain stimulation (DBS) — a technology already known for the treatment of the disease — but which had its dimensions greatly reduced.

Previously, other studies have evaluated the impact of ECP in the treatment of dementia. Generally, this type of stimulation is used to improve tremor and other movement symptoms that cannot be controlled by medication. However, traditional implants can be applied to less than 5% of people with Parkinson’s, because of the complexity of the surgery and the high costs.

In common, both technologies improve symptoms by delivering electrical impulses directly to specific areas within the brain. With this, it is possible to replace abnormal patterns of functioning of brain cells that arise with Parkinson’s. The exception is that the Picostim system, developed by the company Bioinduction, has a miniaturized pacemaker battery. It is one-third the size of conventional devices.

Because of its diminutive size, the battery — which delivers electrical impulses through wires that extend into the brain — can be implanted directly into the skull. “Being able to place the battery in the skull makes it cosmetically invisible and eliminates the need for extension cords coming out of the chest, as well as the tunneling of these cords under the skin of the neck,” explains the statement on the ongoing study.

Another advantage of the device is the time of surgery in which the patient is submitted. It’s just three hours, while the traditional method takes at least six hours.

Reversal of Parkinson’s in patient Tony

So far, no scientific studies on tests of the brain implant against Parkinson’s have been published, but the medical team responsible says that the device has been shown to be effective. Even patient Tony describes that “the impact [do procedimento] it was amazing”.

In addition, the volunteer explains that the dystonia, marked by involuntary and repetitive muscle contractions, has passed. He also reports that he can now walk for about three kilometers without having to rest. Before the surgery, he was unable to walk another 180 meters. “I went back to playing golf, not as well as before, but that is probably due to old age; but at least I did play again”, completes the patient, in a witty tone.

To demonstrate the effects of the brain implant, the team of researchers recorded a comparison of Tony performing activities with or without the brain implant. The improvement of Parkinson’s symptoms is visible after using the device. Check the log below:

Source: North Bristol NHS Trust

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