LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – Some groundbreaking Parkinson's research is taking place at the University of Kentucky.
The school is the first in the U.S. to conduct a trial using a peripheral nerve implant in conjunction with deep brain stimulation.
The hope is it will reverse brain degeneration associated with Parkinson's disease.
Five patients have taken part in a two-pronged trial that stimulates brain function through electrodes and through regenerative nerve tissue.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) was approved in 2002 and is just one half of the treatment.
Rodney Parsons is from Lexington and was diagnosed 10 years ago.
"I came in to see Dr. van Horne and was very impressed,” said Parsons. “He was very humble and I had the surgery and it's worked out well for me."
The other part of the treatment is a new procedure that uses the peripheral nerve to regenerate brain cells.
"If we can take tissues that are in other parts of the body, regenerating and providing substances that might help and support damaged cells, maybe we could use those in areas where cells are in need,” said Dr. van Horne.
The hope is that the research being conducted at UK will not just treat symptoms of Parkinson's, but also get at the root of regenerating brain cells.
"The nice thing about the trial is that patients provide their own tissue,” he said. “As they provide their own tissue, there's not a chance of rejection as in other transplanted tissues and organs."
Parkinson's disease affects 1 million Americans and is the second
most common neurodegenerative disease in the country.
Dr. van Horne says it should take a year to determine whether or not the treatment works.