Isacson Study Shows Dopamine Neurons May Rebuild Brains in Parkinson's Patients

May 31st, 2005

A report published in the May 5 online version of the journal Brain documents the first post-mortem analysis of two patients with Parkinson's disease who received human fetal midbrain transplants - prepared as a cell suspension - into the striatum, and in one case, also into a novel surgical location: the substantia nigra of the patient's brain.

Many have questioned whether such vulnerable dopamine neurons can survive implantation since there may be negative effects from the on-going disease process in a patient's brain. However, this new study demonstrates that such vulnerable neurons can indeed survive when implanted into the brains of Parkinson patients. These patients showed marked and progressive clinical improvement over a three year period after transplantation, and of clinical significance, the patients did not develop any further motor complications after transplantation.

Ole Isacson, Dr. Med. Sc., senior and corresponding author of the study, and leader of the cell therapy research team at McLean Hospital, noted that these findings show that the most functionally adapted dopamine midbrain neuron type can survive, grow and reinnervate the host brain, even in Parkinson's disease patients, with significant benefit to the patient and without side effects.

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