Parkinson’s patients and others suffering debilitating tremors could be cured of their shaking using a new ultrasound machine which targets their brain cells.
Doctors in the National Health Service (NHS) have treated the first patients using the new technique which avoids the need for invasive brain surgery, telegraph.co.uk reported.
Around one million people in the UK are affected by the condition of essential tremor, which causes uncontrollable shaking, while another 100,000 have tremors because of conditions like Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis.
The shaking is thought to be caused by abnormal electrical circuits in the brain, which transmit tremors through the nervous system to the muscles.
The new treatment, known as ‘MRI-guided focused ultrasound for brain’ works by accurately applying heat energy from ultrasound waves to very specific parts of the brain to break the abnormal circuit causing the tremor. It is performed under local anesthetic with no need for invasive brain surgery.
Selwyn Lucas, a 52-year old painter and decorator from St. Austell in Cornwall, has lived with a tremor for 20 years and was one of the first people to receive the treatment as part of the trial in the UK.
“For many years I managed to live a relatively normal life with my tremor but over the last five years it had started to prevent me from leading the life I wanted to lead,” he said.
“It was also particularly difficult to continue my job as a painter and decorator as I had to learn to perform my job using my left hand.
“Since the treatment I have been able to write my own name for the first time in many years and taken my wife out for a lovely meal without fear of embarrassing myself. I will also be able to go back to using my right hand which will allow me to take on more painting and decorating jobs.”
Professor Wladyslaw Gedroyc, consultant radiologist and principal investigator for the latest trial of 20 patients, said: “We are pleased with the results of the trial so far.
“We anticipate that this new approach to therapy in essential tremor and other movement disorders, including Parkinson’s, will allow huge improvements in patients’ quality-of-life without the need for invasive procedures or expensive, poorly tolerated and often ineffective drug therapy.”
Claire Bale, the head of Research Communications and Engagement at Parkinson’s UK, said: “The development of focused ultrasound techniques offers a new and promising tool for treating tremor.
“It is particularly attractive because this therapy could provide similar benefits to deep brain stimulation but without the need invasive brain surgery which comes with risks of infection.”