VCU studying vibrating shoe that might help Parkinson’s patients walk

Local News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Doctors diagnosed Charles Bryan with Parkinson’s Disease 15 years ago.

“It’s like driving with your parking brake on,” the 72-year-old explained. “You can imagine what that’s like. Everything slows down.”

One of the Short Pump man’s most debilitating symptoms is his struggle to walk.

“All of a sudden I’ll just stop and it’s as if my feet are glued to the floor,” he explained.

Bryan suffers from ‘freezing of gait.’ It’s a side effect of the disease that impacts more than half of all Parkinson’s patients.

VCU Health is about to launch a study to see if vibrations can help people like Bryan walk with more ease.

Researchers believe a small device that straps around patients’ ankles could be the key to giving them better movement. It sends vibrations to their feet.

“It’s going to make them, give them back what was stolen from them by the Parkinson’s Disease,” says Ingrid Pretzer-Aboff. She is one of two principal investigators of the study funded with a grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

“Research over time has shown that vibration has a very beneficial effect specifically for people with Parkinson’s Disease and specifically for their walking abilities,” explains Pretzer-Aboff, “I’m excited that we have a chance to push it forward and even closer to where people can use it.”

“This is literally a step in the right direction,” echoes Bryan.

Researchers believe a small device that straps around patients' ankles could be the key to giving them better movement. It sends vibrations to their feet.

Regaining the ability to do something most don’t think twice about would be life-changing for him. Bryan is a VMI graduate with a 50th class reunion coming up.

“I’m determined that I’m going to march off the field with my brother rats,” he said. “Maybe this device will help me.”

Patients interested in enrolling in this trial can contact Gina Blackwell, clinical research associate in the Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center.

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