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A breakthrough in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease has been discovered by a hospital in the United Kingdom, with doctors able to reverse the symptoms of the disease.
Southmead Hospital in Bristol has conducted a trial utilising tiny deep brain stimulation (DBS) devices to obstruct and overturn brain-cell patterns caused by Parkinson’s.
Twenty-five patients were selected for the trial, which concludes next year, with Tony Howells the first to receive the treatment as part of the trial.
Howells had the operation in 2019 and spoke to BBC about the transformation, saying he couldn’t even walk 180 metres from the car before the surgery.
A British hospital has tested a tiny brain implant that reverses the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.— HumanProgress.org (@HumanProgress) May 8, 2022
"Tony Howells, the first person to receive the treatment as part of a trial, said the impact was 'amazing.'"
Source: https://t.co/LMVAaQCTqR pic.twitter.com/zZwYH5619L
He said: "Then after the operation, which was 12 months later, I went on Boxing Day again and we went for 2.5 miles (4km) and we could've went further.”
Howells called the operation ‘amazing’.
There is no current cure for Parkinson’s disease, which sees parts of the brain become damaged over time, leading to an involuntary shaking of body parts, slow movement, and stiff muscles.
While most cases come in people aged over 50, about 5 per cent of cases first experience symptoms when they are under 40.
DBS surgery currently involves a large battery implanted into the chest or stomach which is connected to wires underneath the skin into the brain.
This new system is much smaller and the battery system gets implanted into the skull, which uses electrical impulses to target damaged areas of the brain.
The operation also takes half the time of the traditional method as it's carried out in just three hours.
Mr Howells continued: “You can't understand how frustrating [Parkinson's] is until it happens to you.
"Just doing your shoelaces up is a major operation... it affects your every day life no end."
He noted that he was looking forward to being able to play golf again.
Neurologist Dr Alan Whorne noted that this sort of surgery would be more applicable to a much younger patient.
According to the Better Health Channel, 80,000 Australians are currently living with Parkinson’s disease, with approximately four per 1,000 directly impacted by the disease.
In the United Kingdom, there are about 140,000 people impacted by the disease, with Dr Whorne believing about 14,000 could benefit from the device.
Recently, comedian Billy Connolly opened up about living with Parkinson’s disease.
The 79-year-old said: “It's really important to work, to draw, to write, to walk silly for your grandchildren. Doing the same thing you've always done is good for you.
"I don't let the Parkinson's dictate who I am – I just get on with it. I've had a very successful career and I have no regrets at all."