Every day, new medical techniques are created and tested. Researchers constantly find new ways to treat conditions that affect the brain and spinal cord. One treatment option that is currently being explored for various purposes is deep brain stimulation. Deep brain stimulation, which was first approved by the Food & Drug Administration in 1997, is commonly used to treat Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor, but researchers want to apply the procedure to other conditions.
According to the Wall Street Journal, deep brain stimulation consists of “stimulation from electrodes powered by a battery, also implanted in the body.” The stimulation appears to reprogram certain areas of the brain. The deep brain stimulation system consists of a surgically-implanted device near the collarbone and an electrode that is threaded into the brain. Presently, the FDA has given the procedure limited approval for specific conditions, such as dystonia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Now, researchers say they are ready to test deep brain stimulation on treating pain from spinal cord injuries.
The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and the Miami VA Healthcare System recently received a three-year $750,000 grant from the United States Department of Defense to begin trials to “test the safety and efficacy of using deep brain stimulation in spinal cord injured patients to reduce pain and episodes of high blood pressure called autonomic dysreflexia, and improve function,” according to Health Canal. The researchers who will conduct the trials in the fall were particularly inspired by preclinical research with animal models that showed how stimulation of the region of the brain that releases pain-relieving molecules improved digestion and regulated insulin levels. In addition, the animal models were less likely to develop autonomic dysreflexia and displayed enhanced movement.
The researchers hope the trials will lead to reduced pain and enhanced natural spinal cord repair in spinal cord injury patients. The FDA has already approved the pending trial for up to 12 participants with spinal cord injuries.