Gaining Momentum for Movement

Generous philanthropic support of the Foundation’s Brains Trust campaign is giving hope to patients suffering from a crippling movement disorder in ground-breaking clinical trials at St Vincent’s Private Hospital Sydney.

Focal dystonia is a movement disorder characterised by sustained or intermittent muscle contractions that cause abnormal movements in an isolated part of the body. It is common in people who frequently use fine motor skills, such as musicians, athletes, hairstylists and writers, and the symptoms are similar to those experienced by patients suffering nerve injuries.

This year, we have seen exciting results from a new clinical trial utlising Magnetic resonance–guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) to treat this condition.

MRgFUS is a non-invasive, non-surgical procedure that involves radiofrequency – focused beams of acoustic energy – to heat and destroy a small, targeted area of tissue in the brain without harming adjacent tissues.

Patients who have had their lives transformed through the trial include an internationally lauded concert violinist, and a restaurateur from Singapore, both of whom faced devastating loss in their careers without the full functionality of their hands. Immediately after the procedure, the restaurateur could use chopsticks again and the violinist was able to play her violin beautifully, something she had not been able to do for years.

Their access to the procedure was made possible by a grant bestowed by JW & M Cunningham Foundation, which supports ten patient cases in the trial.  Each procedure costs around $30,000; which makes this philanthropic support so precious to patients who would not otherwise be able to afford the treatment.

“Their successful treatment demonstrates the power of this novel technology and provides hope for countless individuals who struggle with this condition on a daily basis,”
Dr Joel Maamary, Movement Disorders Fellow, and Chief Investigator on the program

Dr Maamary’s (pictured above left) Research Fellow position is supported by donations from Sherman Foundation, Amanda Kailis, and Michael Frazis. A/Prof Stephen Tisch, Head of Neurology Department (pictured above right) leads the program at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, the first facility in Australia to use MRgFUS equipment.   We offer our deepest thanks to all supporters of this program.