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No scalpel, no shakes

August 26, 2016

Dr. Nir Lipsman, a scientist in the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Research Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI), co-led an international team that conducted a clinical trial of MRI-guided focused ultrasound (MRIgFUS) in the treatment of essential tremor. Seventy-six patients with moderate-to-severe essential tremor were treated with either MRIgFUS or a sham procedure. Patients who received the ultrasound therapy saw a 47% reduction in their tremors at three months and a 40% reduction at one year. In contrast, patients who received the sham procedure saw a less than 1% improvement. These findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Essential tremor is a neurological condition that causes uncontrollable shaking, most often in a person’s hands. Unlike other surgical procedures that treat essential tremor, MRIgFUS is noninvasive. It does not require a scalpel. Beams of focused ultrasound waves are precisely targeted using MRI to a specific region of the brain, where heat generated by the waves destroys the disease-causing tissues. Dr. Kullervo Hynynen, director of Physical Sciences at SRI, pioneered the development of focused ultrasound technology and was the first to pair it with MRI.

The MRIgFUS device, which was developed by Hynynen in partnership with industry partner Insightec, received approval from Health Canada and the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. in July.

» Read more about the trial and its implications for other brain disorders

» Read the full story at The National Post and CBC

» Read about Dr. Hynynen’s work using focused ultrasound to breach the blood-brain barrier and deliver therapy directly into a patient’s brain

Nir Lipsman