A potentially significant new approach to the treatment of Parkinson's disease has been discovered by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
Neurologist Mahlon R. DeLong and his colleagues are reporting in today's edition of the journal Science that destroying a small number of cells in a particular region of the brain of monkeys produces "dramatic and immediate" improvement in the animals' conditions. Monkeys that had Parkinson's symptoms of uncontrollable tremors stopped shaking and were able to use their limbs within one minute after the treatment.
"We were frankly surprised by the extent of the improvement," says DeLong, who is now at Emory University in Atlanta.
The discovery is based on evidence suggesting that cells in the region, called the subthalamic nucleus, become over-excited in victims of Parkinson's, producing the tremors and rigidity that are characteristic of the disease.