(Be sure to see the entire article in Science Daily, 9-27-18)
Science Daily mentioned a new therapy technique invented by researchers at The University of Texas (UT) Dallas that has been showing a pilot study that doubles the rate of upper limb recovery in stroke patients, a leap forward in treating the nearly 800,000 Americans who suffer strokes each year.
The results of the study, funded by UT Dallas spin-off company MicroTransponder of Austin, Texas, were published 9-27-18 in the journal Stroke.
The findings indicate that targeted plasticity therapy -- which involves stimulation of the vagus nerve paired with traditional motor-skill rehabilitation is not only safe, but also twice as effective as rehab alone. The vagus nerve, also called the X cranial nerve or 10th cranial nerve, is the longest and most complex of the cranial nerves and it runs from the brain through the face and thorax to the abdomen.
Dr. Jane Wigginton, the chief medical officer at UT Dallas' Texas Biomedical Device Center (TxBDC) and an associate professor of emergency medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center, led the Dallas site of the clinical trial, which involved 17 people across the country who had suffered a stroke.
"Stroke is too common and too debilitating for us to tolerate the status quo," Wigginton said. "Patients need a real solution so they can get back to fully living their lives."
Researchers affiliated with the TxBDC and BBS developed the therapy technique, which pairs physical movements with the precisely timed nerve stimulation (VNS).
A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted because of a blockage or a ruptured blood vessel. Limb mobility can be affected when nerve cells are damaged. Such forms of brain trauma are often treated with rehab/therapy that includes repeated movement of the affected limb in an effort to regain motor skills. The approach is thought to work by helping the brain reorganize, to “retrain the brain.”
Several studies of Kilgard's technique in animal models have previously demonstrated that it is effective in recovering limb function after stroke.
In addition to showing that the technique is safe, the researchers found that subjects receiving active VNS scored more than twice as high as control subjects at the 30- and 90-day intervals, opening the way for larger, more extensive clinical trials, Kilgard said. One such trial is in the recruitment phase and includes a study site in Dallas.
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