How a Famous Author Is Raising Parkinson’s Research Awareness

A new therapy in testing for people with Parkinson's disease has garnered much attention, including from renowned author John Grisham.

On November 13, Grisham and Focused Ultrasound Foundation (FUSF) Chairman Neal Kassell, MD, spoke at TEDx Charlottesville about the potential of focused ultrasound to treat medical conditions such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and benign and malignant tumors.

This is a "revolutionary, noninvasive therapeutic technology that truly holds the promise to transform the treatment of a whole variety of serious medical disorders," said Dr. Kassell. "But one of the most problematic barriers is lack of awareness."

In a study funded by The Michael J. Fox Foundation and the FUSF, researchers are using an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine to view images of a patient's brain in real time while focusing more than 1,000 intersecting beams of ultrasound energy on specific tissue. The ultrasound energy heats and destroys abnormal cells associated with dyskinesia without harming adjacent tissue. This focused ultrasound procedure is also under investigation for tremor. No surgery, anesthesia or incisions are required, decreasing the risk of infection, hemorrhage, blot clots and accidental tissue damage.

An important note: While focused ultrasound requires no surgery and is more easily tolerated than alternatives such as deep brain stimulation, it is irreversible.

Grisham joined the FUSF board of directors six years ago after learning about the therapy's promise. His goal is to raise awareness about the treatment.

"I do know that I have an audience, and I do know that I can tell a story, so I've written a book," he said.

His newest piece of fiction, The Tumor, tells the story of a man diagnosed with a brain tumor and the opportunity that focused ultrasound affords his treatment.

Joining Dr. Kassell and Grisham onstage during the TEDx talk was Kimberly Spletter, the first person in the United States treated with focused ultrasound as part of the MJFF and FUSF-sponsored clinical trial.

"My life before my focused ultrasound procedure was completely different," said Spletter, who had great difficulty walking and could no longer complete some of her favorite activities, like bike riding. She stood strong on the stage and shared how she had walked back to her room immediately after the procedure.

Spletter wrote a short essay for MJFF in September about her experience with the treatment.

Watch the entire TEDx talk.

Learn more about Grisham's book.

Watch our webinar where Dr. Kassell spoke about focused ultrasound.

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