A Japanese university team has started a clinical trial of a treatment for Parkinson's disease that uses weak ultrasonic waves to burn off abnormal nerve cells.
Parkinson's is a progressive disease in which patients gradually lose their ability to move. Their limbs may tremble and the body becomes rigid. The disease is caused by abnormalities in the cells responsible for the production of dopamine, a brain chemical that sends mobility signals to other parts of the body.
An Osaka University team, led by Professor Hideki Mochizuki, started a clinical trial this month. The experimental treatment involves applying weak ultrasound waves on some of the abnormal nerve cells from about 1,000 directions. The team says the pinpoint method can eliminate the risk of damaging other parts of the brain.
The treatment method has been studied in Spain for patients with relatively slight symptoms. Doctors say it is not able to cure the disease completely but is expected to alleviate the symptoms.
Ten patients will be monitored over the next year to check the safety and efficacy of the treatment.
The team is hoping that the ultrasound wave method will be established as a standard treatment that can be covered by health insurance.
An estimated 150,000 people in Japan have Parkinson's.