Spinal implant relieves Parkinson's in rodents

1 April 2009

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Category: Research & medical benefits

lab-rat.jpgResearchers have found that an electrical current, delivered through an implant in the spinal chord, can aid movement in rodents showing Parkinson’s symptoms.

The study is based on the principles of deep brain stimulation (DBS), a highly effective treatment using electrodes implanted deep into the brain. However, the surgical procedure required to implant the electrodes in the brain is highly invasive, so alternatives are being investigated. Researchers used rodents (rats and mice) with symptoms of Parkinson’s, implanting a tiny electrode into the spinal chord. They applied an electrical current which travelled up the spine and into the brain. Three seconds after beginning the stimulation, the rodents no longer showed symptoms and could move normally.

This approach is safer and much more straightforward than implanting electrodes into the brain. A constant sense of vibration is a side effect, but reduced risk and lower doses of medication are convincing benefits. 

More research is needed but these findings are very promising. The procedure is currently being tested on monkeys and, if successful, human trials could begin in the next few years.

Please see our page on Parkinson’s and DBS, including a video of the effects of DBS on a patient.