Palo Alto - Patients are calling it a potential game-changer. Stanford doctors are testing a new treatment that may have the ability to slow or reverse some symptoms of Parkinson's disease: a pair of vibrating gloves seem to help not only with tremors, but with speech, walking and balance too.
This comes as great news for Joan Flack of Pleasant Hill. She is determined to fight Parkinson's with everything she's got.
"These 10 years have been tough. It's a challenge, and you have to be a fighter," she said.
And now, thanks to Stanford Medicine, she'll have a new weapon in her arsenal.
These vibrating gloves are supposed to counteract many of the worst symptoms of Parkinson's.
"Tremors, balance, gait, smell, and taste - we don't have that. We don't smell anything in Parkinson's. This is supposed to bring all that back to our brains. So it's a game-changer for sure," Flack said.
Dr. Peter Tass, a professor of neurosurgery at Stanford, has been developing the gloves for decades.
This is how they work: they vibrate in a specific pattern at your fingertips, essentially tricking the brain into forgetting its abnormal patterns.
"The advantage of the glove is that these pathways, these sensory pathways bring the signals exactly to the areas neurons we want to be stimulated," said Tass.
And unlike current Parkinson's treatments which include drugs and brain surgery, the gloves are non-invasive. So far, Stanford's study of them has seen amazing success.
One patient went from walking with a cane, to running a marathon after six months.
"I think it is just the start, just the beginning. You can do a lot with a very mild type of intervention, and you do not need to treat invasively," said Tass.
Joan Flack is hopeful the gloves will help her too. She's enrolled in a new clinical trial to test them.
"I'm convinced it's going to work," she said.
The hope is that the effects of the vibrations are lasting, even after the gloves come off
"By doing this exercise, weaning off the glove is supposed to make the change for the rest of my life," said Flack. "That's just a miracle. That's literally a miracle in front of me, and I'm pretty excited about it."
The clinical trial is about to get underway, and they are still enrolling a few more patients. It should last about 14 months, and then they'll be seeking FDA approval.
Patients interested in volunteering for the clinical trial can send an email to email@example.com.