Parkinson’s is one of those diseases which many of us may not fully comprehend, only having a surface understanding of the trauma and treatment though public service announcements.
Treatment for the disease has come a long way since it was first recognized by James Parkinson in 1817. Whether it’s been in the form of medication, a surgery for tremor or a process called deep brain stimulation, the methods for helping patients cope with the disease have only improved.
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On November 9, Boston Scientific Neuromodulation, a division of Boston Scientific located in Valencia’s Industrial Center, announced the first implantation of its new deep brain stimulation technology, called Vercise, which will be administered in a clinical trial at six European sites.
To date, the treatment has only begun in Cologne, Germany, and subsequent studies will take nearly two years to yield results.
While DBS systems have been available for many years, the Vercise design offers capabilities previously unavailable to patients, according to company officials.
“It comes down to the way we deliver the electrical stimulation,” said division President Michael Onuscheck.
According to Onuscheck, available models utilize one electrical output that sends signals to specific areas of the brain. These signals allow for a more direct current flow, given patients more control over their movements.
The Vercise model will have 16 of these outputs.
“It’s the difference between having a single light switch in your house that either turns on the lights in one room,” said Onuscheck, “or having 16 dimmer switches, which you can turn them all on independently at different levels.”
The multi-circuited technology is designed to help patients target specific movements the brain dictates. During the clinical trial, the doctors will be able to periodically calibrate the system, sending precise signals to parts of the patients’ brains that have been most affected.
A physician, generally a neurologist, will pre-program a patient’s Vercise model, monitoring the balance between the electrical stimulation and the pharmaceuticals, said Onuscheck.
Parkinson’s does not have a cure, which affects at least one million patients in America ever year.
The disease occurs when a group of cells in an area of the brain begin to die. These cells, called the substantia nigra, produce dopamine, which controls movement and coordination.
This deficiency causes tremor, rigidity, slowed movement and impaired balance. Many of us are familiar with these symptoms in Parkinson’s patients, in part thanks to film and television star Michael J. Fox, who has testified before Congress and established a foundation to fund research.
According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, management of the disease should consist of medication, a nutritious diet and exercise.
Next year, Boston Scientific Neuromodulation will lend its technology to a similar clinical trial in the United States.