High-Tech Parkinson's Therapy With A Powerful Consumer Touch

High-Tech Parkinson's Therapy With A Powerful Consumer Touch

John Nosta 30/07/2018 5

As simple as answering a phone, therapy can be now adjusted “in the moment” to support specific activities. Today, advances in sophisticated technology and simulation are combined with consumer friendly, smartphone convenience. 

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Its symptoms and possible treatments are discussed in the 7,000-year-old Indian medical practice of Ayurveda, as well as the first Chinese medical text recorded more than 2,500 years ago. Yet humanity’s long and troubled coexistence with Parkinson’s disease (PD) has not yielded a cure.

For the 10 million people affected by PD around the world (including 60,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States alone), research cannot move fast enough. PD is an insidious brain disease whose symptoms – shaking (tremor), stiffness, and difficulty with walking, coordination and balance; not to mention related mental and behavioral concerns such as depression, fatigue and memory loss – show up slowly and gradually worsen over time.

Despite seven therapies currently in phase 3 clinical trials, and more than a dozen others in earlier stages of development, we are still using medicines debuted in the 1960s – when low levels of dopamine in Parkinson’s patients’ brains were first identified as a hallmark of the disease – as gold-standard treatment. These drugs increase the level of dopamine in the brain. Other available medications affect different brain chemicals, and still others help control nonmotor symptoms. All have complaints of difficult side effects.

Leave it to technology and an iPod to help push Parkinson’s treatment to the next level.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) – a surgical procedure that implants electrodes into part of the brain and connects them to a small electrical device implanted in the chest – was first approved for use in Parkinson’s patients in the United States in 2002. But, in recent years, new advances like wireless control via an iPod or smartphone device, and the directional lead technology of medical device company Abbott’s Infinity DBS System, have made the technology far more precise and personalized.

Using a mild pulse of current, DBS delivers stimulation to specific areas of the brain responsible for PD symptoms, and effectively “shuts off” the characteristic tremor patients experience. Directional leads enable each patient’s doctor to target therapy to precise, individualized areas of the brain.  This precision allows physicians to optimize the stimulation to create a series of optimal protocols that can align with multiple and individual tasks or lifestyles.


Abbott’s Infinity DBS System |  ABBOTT

Now, here's the interesting part; the deep brain stimulation (DBS) patient programmer uses a wireless iOS mobile platform. In essence, your smart phone becomes a personal programmer that gives a patient or caregiver the unique opportunity to turn the system on and off, and to adjust setting within limits set by a physician. So, patients can now have unique modes to optimize specific activities of daily living such as conversation, piano playing, and sleep, to name just a few. As simple as answering a phone, therapy can be now adjusted "in the moment" to support specific activities. In a word, it's new found freedom for an expanded lifestyle that was once limited by a disease and technology. And it's exactly this technology, combined with collaborative care, that aligns perfectly with today's consumer mandate of engagement for optimal therapy.

This advanced level of therapeutic participation can help drive patient (and physician) acceptance—a critical dynamic to help raise awareness and drive use for DBS. In fact, a pilot study out of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, published just four weeks ago, showed that early PD patients who received DBS therapy along with medication were less likely to develop new tremors than those patients treated with drug therapy alone.

It's well established that DBS can be a life change option for people with Parkinson's disease. Today, advances in sophisticated technology and simulation are combined with consumer-friendly, smartphone convenience. The results can be dramatic and life changing.  After 7,000 years, high tech with a consumer touch may be an important step forward in managing a complex and difficult disease.

A version of this article first appeared on Forbes

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  • Kevin Challinor

    This will provide improved quality of life for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

  • David Harris

    Smartphone apps have changed various aspects of patients’ needs.

  • Scott Barnett

    Making sense of the volume of information, how to handle collected data and keeping it constantly secure is challenging. New digital health strategies should be provisioned.

  • Charlie Wilton

    I guess this therapy is much more effective and user-friendly compared to the remaining average technological tools.

  • shirleyklasen

    The love of my life for the last 17 years was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease nearly 4 years ago, at age 52. He had a stooped posture, tremors, muscle stiffness, horrible driving skills, and slow movement. He was placed on Sinemet 50/200 at night for 7 months and then Sifrol and rotigotine were introduced which replaced the Sinemet but he had to stop due to side effects. He started having hallucinations, lost touch with reality. Suspecting it was the medications I took him off the Siferol (with the doctor's knowledge) In March this year his primary physician suggested we started him on Natural Herbal Gardens Parkinson’s Herbal formula which eased his anxiety a bit, i’m happy to report this PD herbal treatment worked very effectively. His Parkinson’s is totally under control, he had a total decline in symptoms, the tremors, shaking, stiffness, slow movement and speech problems stopped. Visit Natural Herbal Gardens official web page ww w. naturalherbalgardens. c om. My family are amazed at the change and rapid improvement. PD is not a death Sentence, DON’T GIVE UP HOPE!!!

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John Nosta

Digital Health Expert

John is the #1 global influencer in digital health and generally regarded as one of the top global strategic and creative thinkers in this important and expanding area. He is also one the most popular speakers around the globe presenting his vibrant and insightful perspective on the future of health innovation. His focus is on guiding companies, NGOs, and governments through the dynamics of exponential change in the health / tech marketplaces. He is also a member of the Google Health Advisory Board, pens HEALTH CRITICAL for Forbes--a top global blog on health & technology and THE DIGITAL SELF for Psychology Today—a leading blog focused on the digital transformation of humanity. He is also on the faculty of Exponential Medicine. John has an established reputation as a vocal advocate for strategic thinking and creativity. He has built his career on the “science of advertising,” a process where strategy and creativity work together for superior marketing. He has also been recognized for his ability to translate difficult medical and scientific concepts into material that can be more easily communicated to consumers, clinicians and scientists. Additionally, John has distinguished himself as a scientific thinker. Earlier in his career, John was a research associate at Harvard Medical School and has co-authored several papers with global thought-leaders in the field of cardiovascular physiology with a focus on acute myocardial infarction, ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.

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