Brain Surgery: PING


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – For many people living with epilepsy or movement disorders, like Parkinson’s and Tourette’s syndrome, brain surgery becomes the only treatment option. Now, scientists are working on a new, non-invasive way to remove the faulty brain cells triggering those conditions.

Forty-two million Americans struggle with movement disorders. Medications may work for some but not for everyone. Now, scientists at the University of Virginia and Stanford have developed a procedure that can non-invasively remove faulty brain cells. It’s called PING.

Neuroscientist at UVA Health, Kevin Lee, PhD, says, “We hope PING will be the next step in intervention for those individuals that don’t respond to drugs.”

(Read Full Interview)

PING uses focused ultrasound waves combined with tiny microbubbles.

“What’s different about PING is we’re going in with a much lighter, a lower intensity treatment,” Professor Lee explains.

The ultrasound and microbubbles briefly open the protective barrier that normally surrounds the brain. Doctors administer an IV drug that travels to the faulty brain neurons and kills them, leaving healthy cells intact.

Professor Lee adds, “You’d like to knock out the area that’s causing the problems, the real culprit cells, but spare the things passing through that are still functional. PING will do that.”

Researchers say the PING approach could be used on irregularly shaped targets in the brain, in areas that are difficult to reach by scalpel or laser. The researchers have tested the approach on animals and found when using PING to treat temporal lobe epilepsy, seizures were reduced or eliminated.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #5097

BACKGROUND: Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain characterized by repeated seizures. A seizure is usually defined as a sudden alteration of behavior due to a temporary change in the electrical functioning of the brain. Normally, the brain continuously generates tiny electrical impulses in an orderly pattern. These impulses travel along neurons — the network of nerve cells in the brain — and throughout the whole body via chemical messengers called neurotransmitters.  According to the latest estimates, about 0.6 percent of children aged 0-17 years have active epilepsy. In a school with 1,000 students—this means about 6 of them could have epilepsy.


DIAGNOSING: Seizure signs and symptoms include temporary loss of awareness or consciousness, uncontrolled muscle movements, muscle jerking, loss of muscle tone, blank stare or “staring into space” look, changes in hearing, vision, taste, smell, feelings of numbness or tingling, psychic symptoms, including fear, dread, anxiety or déjà vu, and faster heart rate and/or breathing. Technically, if you experience two or more seizures that weren’t caused by a known medical condition — for example, from alcohol withdrawal or low blood sugar — you’re considered to have epilepsy. Before making a diagnosis, your healthcare provider (or epilepsy specialist) will perform a physical exam, take your medical history, and may order blood work (to rule out other causes). They may ask about your symptoms during the seizure and conduct other tests, as well.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Now, the Yale Comprehensive Epilepsy Center may have found one in a new generation of neurostimulation devices used for epilepsy. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a deep brain stimulation (DBS) device, manufactured by Medtronic, that sends electrical pulses through the brain to reduce the frequency of seizures. (It works by stimulating an important relay station deep in the brain called the thalamus.) And in June 2020, the FDA approved the Percept PC, also from Medtronic. Facilitating more customized therapy, this modified version allows doctors to treat epilepsy and record electrical activity from deep in the brain.



Joshua Barney

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Dr. Kevin Lee, MD, neuroscientist and Professor of Neuroscience and Neurosurgery

Read the entire Q&A