The study, published in the Annals of Neurology, was led by Mallory Hacker, PhD, MSCI, and senior author David Charles, MD.
Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Charité-Berlin University of Medicine have discovered that targeted deep brain stimulation (DBS) may have the potential to slow or halt the progression of early-stage Parkinson’s disease.
- The research offers hope to the nearly 100,000 new Parkinson’s cases diagnosed annually.
- Dr. Charles has been studying DBS for early-stage Parkinson’s for more than 20 years at Vanderbilt.
- Historically, treatments only temporarily alleviated Parkinson’s symptoms without affecting disease progression.
- The FDA approved DBS for certain advanced Parkinson’s symptoms in 1997 and expanded its approval in 2002.
- A pilot study from more than 15 years ago showed that 1 out of 3 patients with early-stage Parkinson’s experienced halted disease progression post-DBS.
- Of the 15 patients in the pilot, five showed no motor symptom progression after two years.
- DBS treatment requires the patient to be awake during the procedure to ensure electrode placement accuracy.
- The breakthrough in understanding DBS’s potential came when Dr. Hacker collaborated with Dr. Horn in Berlin.
- Patients with electrodes closer to the optimal “sweet spot” managed symptoms with fewer drugs and lower implant stimulation settings.
- This is the only study examining the underlying progression of motor symptoms in relation to DBS.
- Although the results are promising, they are considered “hypothesis-generating” and further research is needed before changing clinical practice. The FDA has approved a pivotal multicenter study led by the Vanderbilt team to further investigate.