Nationwide study tests device to curb Parkinson’s effects

Deep Brain Illustration

A national 20-site clinical study led in part by the University of Minnesota and sponsored by Boston Scientific will evaluate a new implantable brain stimulator designed to quell the effects of Parkinson’s disease.

The “INTREPID” study will examine the safety and efficacy of Boston Scientific’s Vercise DBS System, which uses a technique called deep brain stimulation to reduce Parkinson’s symptoms, which include involuntary shaking, bodily stiffness and slurred speech. The technique involves surgically inserting a node that directs electrical current to stimulate specific parts of the brain.

The University of Minnesota’s Dr. Jerrold Vitek, professor and head of the Department of Neurology, leads the study along with Dr. Philip Starr of the University of California’s Surgical Movement Disorders Clinic.

“Research is the key to finding new and transformative ways to improve our health and quality of life,” said Vitek, a pioneer in the field of deep brain stimulation. “This study is one major step in ensuring those with Parkinson’s disease can have hope for the future and that we are and will continue to work to develop new and novel approaches to the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. We are excited to partner with Boston Scientific and so many distinguished research institutions on this significant project. ”

The technology behind the Vercise device is expected to provide an extended battery life, greater patient comfort, and more controlled and customizable stimulation.

The INTREPID study is expected to be completed in 2021. Dr. Anthony Santiago, an associate professor of neurology at the U of M, is the principal investigator for the U’s site. He recently enrolled the first patient, one of as many as 310 patients nationwide that will participate in the study.

Addressing grand challenges

Involvement in testing the Vercise system is one of many ways the U of M is working toward better solutions to brain disorders. The field is one of four key research areas targeted by MnDRIVE (Minnesota’s Discovery, Research and Innovation Economy), an $18 million annual investment in U research by the state of Minnesota meant to address society’s greatest challenges. Nervous system disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s affect one in five Americans, at an annual cost of approximately $500 billion. MnDRIVE’s focus on discoveries and treatments for brain conditions will leverage university and state investments in medicine and engineering and medical device industry partnerships to transform how neuromodulation can be used to treat diseases.