New Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease Developed at NTHU

Business Wire
Date: March 11, 2020

A research team led by Yu-Chun Lin (left) and Chih-kuang Yeh of NTHU has expanded application of ultrasound to the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. (Photo: National Tsing Hua University)

HSINCHU, Taiwan–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Ultrasound is widely used for conducting physical examinations, and plans are underway for expanding its application to the treatment of Parkinson's disease, dementia, and diabetes. A research team at National Tsing Hua University led by Associate Professor Yu-Chun Lin of the Institute of Molecular Medicine and Professor Chih-kuang Yeh of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Environmental Sciences has successfully improved the motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease in mice by injecting cellular proteins that are highly sensitive to ultrasound waves into the deep brain region and afterwards using ultrasound to activate the neuron cells.

Their innovative research has been published in the January issue of Nano Letters, and their non-invasive treatment has already been patented in Taiwan and the US.

Lin has long sought to find a safe, non-invasive way to control cell activity. Although light waves are safe, they can only penetrate to a depth of about 0.2 cm; magnetic waves can penetrate deep, but lack precision. By contrast, ultrasonic waves penetrate to a depth of up to 15 cm, and can be focused on the affected part. Thus, the challenge was how to make cells respond to ultrasound.

Lin said that almost all mammals have a kind of high-frequency auditory pressure protein known as prestin. However, the prestin in the human body has little sensitivity to ultrasound. By contrast, the prestin in dolphins, whales, and sonar bats is highly sensitive to ultra-high frequency sound waves. By comparing their prestin protein sequences, Lin found that they all have a special amino acid, which he colonized into the cells of mice to modify their prestin proteins. This resulted in an immediate tenfold increase in the cells’ ability to sense ultrasound.

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