Parkinson’s disease clinical trial to begin.

By the time a Parkinson’s disease symptom is noticed, the damage is done. The part of your brain that creates dopamine – a chemical critical for body movement – is irreversibly damaged. In fact, it’s about 70% destroyed.

One of the many consequences of this is a dramatically increased risk of falls. 

In exciting news, NeuRA will soon begin a clinical trial for people living with Parkinson’s disease. Utilising innovative technology, the trial is aimed at reducing the number and severity of falls… and we need your help.

Dr Brodie and Assoc Prof Delbaere are testing smart sock prototypes that vibrate to stimulate the feet and encourage a smooth rhythm while walking. The research project – called WalkingTall – has two main aims:

  1. Fall avoidance. The smart sock prototypes, in conjunction with an app can trigger stimuli (i.e vibrations) if a person is in danger of experiencing freezing of gait, falls or if they show signs of shuffling feet in everyday life.
  2. Neuro-rehabilitation: an exercise and strength building program that uses visual, audio and sensory cues as well as a colour-coded training mat.

Although we are yet to start the formal trial, pilot studies in individuals living with Parkinson’s disease have shown an improvement in walking quality, with volunteers  reporting a marked reduction in the mental effort required to take each step whilst wearing the smart garments.

Today, we do not have sufficient funding for the clinical trial. Our goal is to recruit at least 100 people living with Parkinson’s disease and provide them with the smart sock therapy prototypes.

Will you support this innovative clinical trial?

“I remember, before my diagnosis, trying to get on a bus to come home from work. The door opened and I went to step up, but I was frozen. My head knew what to do, but my body just wouldn’t co-operate. The driver and I just stared at each other.”

Did you know that over 60% of people living with Parkinson’s disease suffer from painful falls, and that on average these individuals fall over 20 times per year?

This is unacceptable.

In exciting news, NeuRA will soon begin a clinical trial for people living with Parkinson’s disease. Utilising innovative technology, the trial is aimed at reducing the number and severity of falls… and we need your help.

Meet Larissa Richards – wife, mum and a beautiful human.

On the day of her 40th birthday, she found herself in a GPs office with a pit in her stomach. Her shaking hand was a sign something wasn’t right. The doctor spoke.

“This could be anything from Multiple Sclerosis, to a brain tumour or Parkinson’s disease.”

Can you imagine for just a moment what blowing out birthday candles must have felt like later that night? Emilie (6) and Callum (4) were excited for mum, but for husband Warren and Larissa, it was the beginning of some dark times.

“I remember, before my diagnosis, trying to get on a bus to come home from work. The door opened and I went to step up, but I was frozen. My head knew what to do, but my body just wouldn’t co-operate. The driver and I just stared at each other.”

A specialist soon confirmed the diagnosis – young onset Parkinson’s disease.

“I’ve lost my health, and there is no price for that. Once it starts, it doesn’t stop. It gets harder and harder, and I don’t remember how many times I’ve burnt my hand, but I know I need to be positive for my children, and shield them from my fears.”

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease with no known cure. The disease irreversibly damages the part of your brain that controls movement through the death of nerve cells that contain dopamine – a chemical critical for body movement. Two of the most debilitating early symptoms include tremor and freezing of gait, which can be so confronting that people do not leave the house and therefor become socially isolated. Parkinson’s is not just a disease of the elderly, with a large percentage of individuals noticing symptoms before their 50th birthday.

Freezing of gait in particular causes dangerous falls through impairment of walking and postural instability. People with Parkinson’s often describe this as if their feet are suddenly glued to the floor – just like the experience of Larissa catching the bus. They want to continue walking but they can’t. The consequences of falling are serious, and can include bone fractures, severe head injuries, unconsciousness and concussion.

“I say to my legs ’move!’ but it feels like they are deaf… they don’t listen to me.”

Tragically, individuals living with Parkinson’s disease are often so concerned about falling that they stop being active, accelerating the symptoms of the disease.

Technology and Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Matt Brodie and Associate Professor Kim Delbaere are developing new research therapies which include smart garments, with the goal of helping prevent freezing of gait, falls and tremor, which can become common as we age.

Dr Brodie and Assoc Prof Delbaere are creating these technologies here at NeuRA, in part supported by The Michael J. Fox Foundation and Shake It Up Australia, and in partnership with smart sock manufacturer Sensoria Health.

The team are testing smart sock prototypes that vibrate to stimulate the feet and encourage a smooth rhythm while walking. The research project – called WalkingTall – has two main aims:

  1. Fall avoidance. The smart sock prototypes, in conjunction with an app can trigger stimuli (i.e vibrations) if a person is in danger of experiencing freezing of gait, falls or if they show signs of shuffling feet in everyday life.
  2. Neuro-rehabilitation: an exercise and strength building program that uses visual, audio and sensory cues as well as a colour-coded training mat.

The team are almost ready to begin a large scale clinical trial* – with a specific focus on individuals living with Parkinson’s disease.

Today, I’m asking for your support to help NeuRA fund this trial.

Although we are yet to start the formal trial, pilot studies in individuals living with Parkinson’s disease have shown an improvement in walking quality, with volunteers – including Larissa – reporting a marked reduction in the mental effort required to take each step whilst wearing the smart garments.

‘It is amazing! They not only made me feel better, the actually made me move better!’ was Larissa’s response.

However we must carefully test these exciting results through a controlled clinical trial.

Today, we do not have sufficient funding for the clinical trial. Our goal is to recruit at least 100 people living with Parkinson’s disease and provide them with the smart sock therapy prototypes, so can I please ask you to consider supporting NeuRA’s Parkinson’s disease research? Alternatively, perhaps you’d like to consider your annual giving, and conveniently spread that out over the 12 months of each year by becoming a Discovery Partner.

It is so exciting when our laboratory research moves to clinical trials. When people, like Larisa, can hold their children’s hands and walk down the street without the fear of tripping, just like every other mum or dad out there.

‘These garments… they give me a sense of freedom, of hope. I could walk the kids to school or go on a bushwalk. They could give me part of my life back!’

NeuRA is at the forefront of this exciting technology, and the clinical trial presents a wonderful opportunity to test this translation research in people living with Parkinson’s disease.

* The clinical trial will include a CTN (Clinical Trial Notification) and approval by a Human Research Ethics Committee.

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