From BBC News
Nicotine patches may help patients with Tourette’s sydrome control some of the involuntary movements that plague patients.
The patches, normally used to help smokers kick the habit, are believed to interfere with a key brain chemical involved in the disorder.
Tourette’s syndrome patients suffer from twitches and tics, and are often prescribed strong tranquilisers which can reduce the twitching, but also dull the ability to think and slow down movements.
The study followed 70 Tourette’s patients, aged between eight and 18, half given the tranquiliser Haldol and a daily nicotine patch.
The other half got a patch with no nicotine.
The group given the nicotine patches found their tics were substantially reduced.
They did better than those given no nicotine when their tranquiliser doses were halved.
Even when the patches were removed for two weeks, they still controlled their symptoms better than those given no nicotine.
The researchers, from the University of South Florida, say that there was no evidence that the children became dependent on nicotine.
Dr Archie Silver, who was involved the research, said: “Not only was the patch effective, but a much smaller dose of the medication Haldol could be given.
“That’s especially important when treating children or adolescents.”
Unfortunately, some children did suffer increased side-effects, such as nausea and dizziness, and the researchers say that patches may only be suitable for those whose symptoms cannot be controlled any other way.
The researchers are not entirely sure how it works, but suggest that by latching onto a “nicotine receptor” on brain cells, it stops the receptor playing its role in the mechanism of Tourette’s instead.
Professor Paul Sanberg, who led the research, said: “Now that we understand more about how nicotine works in the brain, we’re looking for nicotine substitutes that could more precisely target specific brain disorders and have fewer side-effects than the patches.”