WVU Neuroscience Institute Launches Ultrasound Remedy to Battle Opioid Disaster – CBS Pittsburgh

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

MORGANTOWN (KDKA) – After what was the deadliest year for overdose in the United States, West Virginia University has launched the world’s first treatment for the opioid crisis.

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The WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute has started a clinical study to investigate the use of focused ultrasound technology to treat opioid addicts.

The study, conducted in collaboration with Insightec, focuses on the safety and potential of focused ultrasound treatments that would reduce food cravings and addictive behaviors.

“COVID-19 has tragically exacerbated our country’s addiction crisis,” said Dr. Ali Rezai, RNI chairman and principal researcher on this study. “We need to explore technological innovations like focused ultrasound to help patients and families affected by addiction. At RNI, we routinely use focused ultrasound as an FDA-cleared method to treat tremors, and we are conducting clinical trials to explore the potential for treating Alzheimer’s and brain tumors. ”

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A 30-minute procedure applies focused ultrasound waves to the nucleus accumbens, a key structure in the brain that is involved in addiction and anxiety. Researchers then used visual representations of drug use and drug paraphernalia to induce food cravings before and during the half-hour procedure.

A 39 year old business owner is the first participant in the study and has passed the process successfully and safely.

WVU is also researching other technologies to combat opioid addiction, including wearable technologies and artificial intelligence.

In 2019, the WVU also started a first study in the United States to investigate deep brain stimulation as a treatment for addiction. The first patient recently celebrated sobriety for more than a year after struggling with substance abuse for 18 years.

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“We were all impressed with the patient’s bravery in exploring new treatment options for substance use disorders. While current treatment options for substance use disorders work for many, for a variety of reasons they don’t work for everyone, “said James Mahoney, RNI Addiction Researcher, Clinical Neuropsychologist, and Assistant Professor in WVU’s Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry and Neuroscience Division.

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