September 3, 2008

New Surgery Stops Parkinson’s Cell Loss

U.S. scientists say they've discovered deep brain stimulation, a surgical procedure used in Parkinson's disease, halts dopamine-cell loss in animal models.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati's Neuroscience Institute posit the act of stimulating neurons with electrodes boosted the amount of an important protein in animals' brains. The protein, a trophic factor known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, is a nurturing, growth-promoting chemical.

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative neurological disorder involving the death of dopamine-producing brain cells, or neurons.

"Demonstrating that deep brain stimulation halts the progression of dopamine-cell loss was basically a confirmation and extension of previous findings," said Associate Professor Caryl Sortwell, the study's lead investigator. "But finding the mechanism is a novel discovery that is even more critical. We now know not only that it works, we also are beginning to understand how it is working."

She said the findings hold important implications for patients with Parkinson's disease and could alter the current recommended timetable for surgical intervention.

Sortwell reported the study during a recent conference by the Cleveland Clinic and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.