Michael Cima and MIT colleagues have developed a more precise tool to measure dopamine in the brain, to be able to study its role in in learning, memory, and emotion.
The new carbon electrode based technique can cover more of the brain, and provide longer, more accurate neurotransmitter readings, than previously possible.
The goal is a better understanding of neurtransmitter related diseases, and potential therapies to boost dopamine levels, in conditions that dysregulate it, such as Parkison’s disease.
According to lead author Helen Schwerdt: “Right now deep brain stimulation is being used to treat Parkinson’s disease, and we assume that that stimulation is somehow resupplying the brain with dopamine, but no one’s really measured that.”
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Tomsk Polytechnic and Siberian State University scientists David Khachaturyan and Ivan Tolmachov have developed a VR based neurodegenerative disorder diagnosis system. The goal is the early detection and tretment of diseases, including MS and Parkinson’s. The next step is the use of VR systems, like Glass and Kinect, for personalized rehabilitation.
50 subjects, both healthy and already diagnosed, used VR headsets, a non-contact sensor controller and a mobile platform during a variety of activities. Changes in posture and balance were detected, and compared to a human skeleton model of 20 points on the body. Deviations from the model indicated disease. Differences in reactions of those with difference diseases was also noted — Parkinson’s patients experienced hand tremors, and others experienced compromised coordination.
A clinical trial will be completed in 2017.
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Medtronic is linking its implanted devices with Samsung’s phones and tablets to better monitor the effectiveness of neuromodulation technologies. (Click to view Samsung release.)
Those with implanted neurostimulators, which send electronic signals to targeted areas of the brain to block symptoms, can have a more active role in the management of their diseases. Parkinson’s, essential tremor and dystonia patients will hopefully benefit from the initiative.
Data from the devices will be sent to a patient’s mobile devices, including phones, wearables and tablets, in real time. It can also be sent directly to a doctor to help them better understand patient symptoms and progress, and appropriately adjust therapies.
The two companies announces a similar partnership for the management of diabetes earlier this year.
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MIO and Beneufit have partnered to develop wearables to target the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
The pdFIT exercise app was developed to improve manual dexterity and fitness levels in Parkinson’s patients. The wearable continuously monitors progress via sensors on the wrist.
The company claims that its Optimal Heart Rate technology cancels noise caused by movement, due to an added accelerometer. This improves the accuracy of the heart rate monitoring algorithm.
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A small, early stage trial (with no control group) at Georgetown has found that a small dose of the leukemia drug nilotinib (brand name “Tasigna” by Novartis) produced “meaningful clinical improvements” in 10 out of 11 patients.
The potential impact is significant, and the researchers believe that expanded studies will validate the promising results. During the trial, participant dopamine levels increased so much that they were advised to reduce or stop taking other drugs.
The investigators reported that one participant, who was confined to a wheelchair, was able to walk again, and three participants who could not speak were able to hold conversations.
The study marks the first time a therapy appears to reverse the “cognitive and motor decline in patients with these neuro-degenerative disorders,” according to Professor Fernando Pagan, who led the study with Charbel Moussa.
There has been some success with stimulation treatments for Parkison’s symptoms, and advances in early diagnosis and monitoring, but there is no known cure for this debilitating disease. (See ApplySci Parkinson’s coverage, 2013-2015.)
Click to view Georgetown University Medical Center video.
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University of Maryland researchers are using MRI-guided focused ultrasound on the globus pallidus to treat Parkinson’s symptoms. The ExAblate Neuro system was developed by Israel’s Insightec. The treatment is non-invasive, as it does not require a cut, but its ultrasound impacts a deep region of the brain, which is not with out risk.
Currently, drugs and (implanted) deep brain stimulation techniques treat tremor, rigidity and dyskinesia in Parkinson’s patients.
According to Professor Howard Eisenberg, this treatment could “help limit the life-altering side effects like dyskinesia to make the disease more manageable and less debilitating.”
During the 2-4 hour outpatient procedure, patients lie in an MRI scanner with a head-immobilizing frame fitted with a transducer helmet. Ultrasonic energy is targeted through the skull to the globus pallidus, and images acquired during the procedure give physicians a real-time map of the area being treated. Patients are fully awake and able to interact with the treatment team, allowing the physicians to monitor immediate effects and make necessary adjustments.
mPower is a mobile Parkinson’s Disease study, powered by HealthKit. It attempts to understand why people experience different symptoms, and why a person’s symptoms and side effects can vary over time.
The process includes surveys and tasks that activate phone sensors. Progression symptoms, including dexterity, balance and gait, are tracked. The goal is to understand variations, improve the way variations are described, and learn how mobile devices and sensors can help measure the disease and its progression.
This study is sponsored by Sage Bionetworks and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and builds on the work of Max Little.
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UCSF professor Philip Starr published a paper suggesting that Deep Brain Stimulation works by reducing overly synchronized motor cortex activity. He believes that this explains why surgically implanted electrodes improve movement, tremor, and rigidity in Parkinson’s patients.
Little is known about why and how DBS works. This has held back efforts to improve the therapy. Customizing the stimulation delivered to maximally reduce symptoms is challenging. A better understanding of the effect of DBS on brain circuits could make it more effective.
ApplySci hopes that this research will also lead to equally effective, non-invasive, future treatments.
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