Therapy brings long-term hope for halting Parkinson’s Disease

How deep brain stimulation therapy could help to slow or halt the progression of Parkinson’s Disease is the focus of new research by Dr Joohyung Lee, thanks to a grant from the Bethlehem Griffiths Research Foundation.

Dr Joohyung Lee

“Parkinson’s disease (PD) is primarily associated with the inability to initiate and control voluntary movement. These symptoms result from the loss of brain cells that produce a chemical called dopamine, which acts as a signal to initiate movement,” Dr Lee said.

Current therapies for Parkinson’s Disease improve quality of life for patients by relieving symptoms but do not target the root cause – the loss of dopamine producing cells.

Deep brain stimulation therapy is a procedure that uses a surgically implanted, battery-operated medical device called a neurostimulator (like a heart pacemaker) to deliver electrical stimulation to targeted areas in the brain that control movement to relieve symptoms.

Dr Lee explained that deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy blocks the abnormal nerve signals that cause PD symptoms.

“We will aim to show how this therapy, used to improve day-to-day quality life for patients, could also hold longer term benefits for people with this debilitating neurological disorder,” he said.

An estimated four people per 1000 in Australia have Parkinson’s disease, increasing to one in 100 over the age of 60. In Australia, there are approximately 80,000 people living with Parkinson’s disease.

“This is a relatively safe procedure that has been shown to improve daily tasks for patients. Over the past few decades, it has been shown to provide remarkable therapeutic effects in carefully selected patients,” Dr Lee said.

Some studies have hinted DBS may slow the overall progression of Parkinson’s Disease but the findings were inconclusive.

“This research will show whether DBS can slow or halt the disease progression in a clinically relevant model of Parkinson’s Disease. Our ultimate aim is to develop a treatment that slows this relentlessly progressive and debilitating illness to improve the lives of people around the world,” Dr Lee said.

Team: Dr Joohyung Lee, Professor Dominic Thyagarajan

Supporter: Bethlehem Griffiths Research Foundation

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