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Addenbrooke’s to offer Parkinson’s inpatients body-worn CUE1 device from Cambridge company Charco Neurotech to relieve symptoms

Addenbrooke’s has become the first hospital in the world to offer Parkinson’s disease inpatients a new body-worn device developed in Cambridge that aims to quickly and significantly improve movement.

The CUE1, created by Charco Neurotech, is commonly worn on the sternum and delivers specialised patterns of vibration and pulses known as vibrotactile stimulation and cueing.

The CUE1 device from Charco Neurotech
The CUE1 device from Charco Neurotech

This improves motor skills, walking parameters and reduces freeze-of-gait and stiffness for patients.

The Cambridge hospital has bought 10 of the devices with the help of the Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT), which will be used by patients with Parkinson’s to aid their recovery and support them returning home more quickly.

Announcing the development for World Parkinson’s Day, CUH consultant geriatrician Dr Alistair Mackett who specialises in Parkinson’s disease, said: “I felt that it was exciting to trial the CUE1 devices as they have been shown to be safe with almost no side effects, yet potentially helpful with mobility and a reduction in falls.

“In the UK almost 1,000 people already use the device. We are the first hospital in the world to use them with inpatients. The pilot will allow us to collect data and understand how best to use the CUE1 device in people with Parkinson’s who have been admitted to hospital.

Dr Alistair Mackett, a Parkinson's expert at Cambridge University Hospitals
Dr Alistair Mackett, a Parkinson's expert at Cambridge University Hospitals

Dr Mackett, who is also a training programme director for geriatric medicine in the East of England, met Charco Neurotech through the Eastern Academic Health Science Network, which connects the NHS with industry, academic organisations, local authorities and charities to improve outcomes for patients.

He continued: “We have 20 to 30 inpatients with Parkinson’s disease at any one time in CUH and their length of stay is significantly longer than average. Often the rate limiting step in discharge is mobility and this device, given the immediacy of effect, is an interesting intervention.

“My hypothesis is that we might be able to see an improvement in mobility allowing patients to better participate in therapy and hopefully go home quicker.”

ACT chief executive, Shelly Thake, said: “We are extremely pleased to be able to support this trial and bring the hope of greater movement to Parkinson’s patients, and a reduction in falls. We wish all involved good luck with it.”

Floyd Pierres and Lucy Jung, of Charco Neurotech. Picture: Keith Heppell
Floyd Pierres and Lucy Jung, of Charco Neurotech. Picture: Keith Heppell

Lucy Jung, CEO of Charco Neurotech, which is based in East Road, Cambridge, said: “We are delighted to see the CUE1 being trialled in a hospital setting for the very first time. It is a milestone for our company and an important step on our journey to bring back smiles to people living with Parkinson’s around the world.

“The CUE1 has been developed by designers, engineers and clinicians, and offers a novel, non-invasive approach to minimising the symptoms of Parkinson’s. More than 92 per cent of participants displayed an improvement in their motor symptoms such as - but not limited to - stiffness, slowness and freeze of gait when using the device.”

There is a waiting list for CUE1. Details are available at charconeurotech.com/

How it works

The CUE1 features a quiet electric motor to produce vibrotactile stimulation. These vibrations are produced in a specialised pattern developed through extensive research and patient testing.

The wave shape and frequency are designed to deliver both focused stimulation and cueing.

It was in the 19th century that the benefits of focused stimulation were first described, when Prof Jean-Martin Charcot noticed an improvement in his Parkinson’s patients after a bumpy carriage ride.

Research means we now understand that localised vibration, known as focused vibrotactile stimulation, elicits sensory nervous signals that are transmitted from the skin and muscle to the brain.

These signals can modulate cortical activity to reduce the excessive beta wave activity seen in Parkinson’s. This puts the body in a “ready-to-move” state, reducing stiffness and slowness.

Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder that affects nerve cells in the brain. When these dopamine-producing neurons die, patients can experience symptoms such as tremor, slowness, stiffness and balance problems.

Charco Neurotech’s CUE1 device
Charco Neurotech’s CUE1 device

Providing stimulation at the periphery - which can be anywhere on the body - can help boost the neuromotor circuitry, counteracting some of the problems caused by a lack of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter.

Cueing, meanwhile, involves providing a stimulus to initiate or maintain motor activity. It can be delivered in multiple ways - from listening to the sound of a metronome, to seeing lines regularly spaced on the floor or by counting in your head.

In the CUE1 device, it is achieved by pulsing the vibrations, which are discreet and less distracting but can help Parkinson’s patients retain regular cycles of bodily movement that are implicitly learned, like walking.

Neurons in the basal ganglia of Parkinson’s patients are damaged, which disrupts our brain’s internal rhythmic activity, affecting the control of movement.

Charco Neurotech says: “Tactile cues delivered by the CUE1 may help relieve symptoms by modulating the disrupted basal ganglia SMA circuit, potentially bypassing the circuit itself, allowing reinitiation of learned movements and avoidance of freezing.

“While both focussed stimulation and cueing have been studied extensively in literature, the CUE1 is the first widely available device to combine and deliver them in a practical and patient-centred manner.”

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