Marc, from France, has been suffering from Parkinson’s for over 20 years and could no longer move on his own. Two years ago, the man underwent pioneering therapy, which until recently was used only for paralyzed patients. Its effects exceeded his wildest expectations.
Until recently, he was confined to his home. He needed help with simple tasks. It was a challenge for Marc to get up from a chair because the man suffering from Parkinson’s disease often fell. Now he has a chance to live independently.
– I regained my independence. I can walk again. I have trouble speaking, but that’s another matter. My life has changed. I can leave the house by myself to run errands. I can even exercise, says Marc Gauthier, a 63-year-old suffering from Parkinson’s.
This is due to the innovative implant, which was developed by specialists from the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research and the University of Bordeaux. The implant was placed in the man’s lumbar spine. – We have been developing technology for stimulating the spinal cord in paralyzed people for 20 years. We thought we could use it for people with Parkinson’s and improve their walking ability. The neurostimulator sends electrical impulses to the area of the spinal cord responsible for controlling the leg muscles, explains Professor Gregoire Courtine from the Federal University of Technology in Lausanne.
Marc received the implant two years ago, but scientists have only now shared the research results. After implanting the device, the man had to learn how to use it, which is why rehabilitation was necessary. Today, thanks to the implant, Marc, who has been suffering from Parkinson’s for 25 years, can easily walk 6 kilometers every day, can move quickly, take large steps and climb stairs.
– Mark was almost always at home because he was afraid he would fall over. Obviously, falling means danger. I think that thanks to this therapy, patients will regain self-confidence, will be present in social life and will be able to do more things, emphasizes Jocelyne Bloch from the University Hospital in Lausanne.
More patients will receive implants
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disease caused by the death of neurons that produce dopamine, one of the neurotransmitters. The disease causes loss of muscle control, which may cause problems with movement. According to the WHO, the incidence of Parkinson’s disease has doubled over the last 25 years. In 2019, over eight and a half million people around the world struggled with it.
– So far we have one research participant, but it’s more than zero. We don’t know whether all people with Parkinson’s disease will respond positively to the therapy, but we believe it will improve the quality of everyday life for many people, emphasizes Professor Gregoire Courtine.
Therefore, further research is needed. Next year, scientists will install similar implants in six patients. The foundation of actor Michael J. Fox, who has been struggling with Parkinson’s disease for years, donated one million dollars for this purpose.
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Main photo source: Reuters