Maryland researchers examine MR-guided focused US technique to treat Parkinson’s disease

Researchers at the University of Maryland are conducting a clinical trial using MRI-guided focused ultrasound to target the globus pallidus, a structure within the brain that is related to Parkinson’s disease.

During the procedure, patients with Parkinson’s disease lie in an MRI scanner and wear a transducer helmet. Physicians are able to see images of a real-time map of the area being treated, according to a news release. Patients are awake during the two- to four-hour procedure and can interact with the care team.

“In collaboration with my colleagues, we are excited to offer our patients a new, non-invasive therapy to control their Parkinson’s symptoms,” Howard M. Eisenberg, MD, the trial’s principal investigator, said in a news release. “The neurology community has made significant strides in helping patients with Parkinson’s over the years; utilization of MRI-guided focused ultrasound could help limit the life-altering side effects like dyskinesia to make the disease more manageable and less debilitating.”

Nearly one million people in the U.S. have Parkinson’s disease, which is the second most common movement disorder and has no cure. Symptoms include tremor, rigidity, postural instability, cognitive impairment, depression and anxiety.

“Treatment-related side effects such as dyskinesia are the main reason my patients undergo surgery,” Paul S. Fishman, MD, PhD, another investigator, said in the news release. “Focused ultrasound could offer these patients an alternative to surgery.”  

Researchers from the University of Maryland’s Center for Metabolic Imaging and Image-Guided Therapeutics (CMIT) are working on the trial. The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and the Focused Ultrasound Foundation are funding the Parkinson’s study.

“For years, our medical techniques have centered around anatomic imaging of the body and open surgical techniques to repair structural problems,” Graeme Woodworth, MD, associate professor of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and director of the neurosurgery department’s translational research laboratory, said in a news release. “CMIT is set to move this paradigm toward imaging body function and modifying alterations using non-invasive, image-guided focused ultrasound technology.”