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Parkinson’s Disease, a progressive, degenerative and incurable disease that robs individuals of the ability to control their own movements, is one of the most common neurological disorders, affecting around one million Americans.

University of Kentucky neurosurgeon Craig van Horne is working to change that.

He and his team are exploring a novel treatment option and possibly a way to halt or alter the course of the disease. They are conducting the first-ever clinical trial of a procedure to supplement an already used surgical procedure -- Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) -- with a graft of a patient's own peripheral nerve tissue into the brain. With this procedure, Van Horne hopes to leverage the regenerative capacity of these peripheral nerves to allow the parts of the brain that have been damaged by Parkinson’s to heal themselves.

His clinical trial epitomizes the creative innovation and dedication of UK academic medical faculty not only to provide the highest quality care, but also to promote healing through finding new treatments and interventions.

The trial is remarkable in that it is low-cost, combines two existing and approved procedures, and uses a patient’s own nerve tissue, which eliminates the chance of rejection. For these reasons, he and his team were able to move the trial from a proposal to practice in just 18 months – light speed in the world of biomedical research and clinical trials. Currently the trial is ongoing, but preliminary data is encouraging.

If successful, this procedure could significantly change the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and could have an impact on other neurodegenerative disorders as well. “We can translate it to a number of different areas very inexpensively and with very little technology,’ van Horne said.

Van Horne acknowledges that the evolution of this new procedure will take time, but he is fundamentally committed finding ways to help his patients heal.

“It comes down to one question. What can we do for our patients to help prevent this disease from progressing?”

Photos courtesy of the Lexington Herald-Leader