A breakthrough for chronic Parkinson’s disease: patients have been given movement using electrical stimulation

An image to illustrate patients with chronic Parkinson's disease
© iStock/LPETTET

Canadian researchers have restored the movement of patients with chronic Parkinson’s disease using electrical stimulation to their spines.

Prof Mandar Jog from Western University, Canada and Lawson Health Research Institute in London commented that the outcomes of the new treatment for chronic Parkinson’s disease are beyond his “wildest dreams”. This finding could enable further research which may improve the quality of life for patients with Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. It mainly affects the motor system, with symptoms, including:

  • Tremors;
  • Slow movement;
  • Muscle stiffness;
  • Nerve pain; and
  • Balance problems.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “recent studies following people with Parkinson’s over the entire course of their illness estimate that 50 to 80 percent of those with the disease may experience dementia.”

How does electrical stimulation enable movement in patients?

He said: “We had thought that the movement problems occurred in Parkinson’s patients because signals from the brain to the legs were not getting through. But it seems that it’s the signals getting back to the brain that are degraded.”

Through the electrical stimulation to their spines, patients with chronic Parkinson’s disease who were previously housebound are now able to move around more easily.

He added: “Most of our patients have had the disease for 15 years and have not walked with any confidence for several years. For them to go from being home-bound, with the risk of falling, to being able to go on trips to the mall and have vacations is remarkable for me to see.”

The global statistics for Parkinson’s

According to Parkinson’s News Today:

  • Parkinson’s is the second most common age-related neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s;
  • Approximately between seven and 10 million people worldwide have Parkinson’s disease; and
  • The prevalence of the disease ranges from 41 people per 100,000 in the fourth decade of life to more than 1,900 people per 100,000 among those who are 80 and older.
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