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Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms ‘Reversed’ by Mini Implant Bringing Hope

Professor Tim Denison, Oxford University

A small implant connected to electrodes inserted into the skull bone is providing huge relief to younger patients living with Parkinson’s disease, such that it could allow sufferers to pick up fine motor skills like playing golf again.

While it isn’t a cure, the implant is a treatment that makes living with Parkinson’s ten times more bearable.

“Before the operation I went for a walk on Boxing Day with my wife and I got 200 yards (182m) from the actual car,” Mr. Tony Howells, who received this implant in 2019, said according to the BBC.

“Then after the operation, which was 12 months later, I went on Boxing Day again and we went for 2.5 miles (4km) and we could’ve went further. It was amazing,” he added.

25 patients like Howells have been selected to participate in the trial at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, England which will conclude next year. Most of the them are older than 50, but those who may be old enough to begin losing memories make them too old for the operation.

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The operation involves inserting the tiny battery within the skull bone and running electrodes down into the center of the brain in the subthalamic nuclei. It then delivers delicate electrical impulses to help stimulate the unaligned neurons to fire correctly, thereby restoring some of the normal muscular function which Parkinson’s disturbs.

Previous implanting operations involved bizarre Tony Stark-like batteries implanted into a patient’s chest. This new method takes just three hours, and could be available for as many as 10% of all Parkinson’s patients.

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“You can’t understand how frustrating [Parkinson’s] is until it happens to you. Just doing your shoelaces up is a major operation… it affects your every day life no end,” said Howells, who is even able to play fine-tuned sports—including, yes, golf—again.

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