Hope for people with Parkinson's


NPF's National Medical Director, Dr. Michael S. Okun, comments in this article from CNN Health about a study of an experimental treatment for Parkinson's disease.

Scientists at Harvard University say they see promising signs from their study on an experimental treatment for Parkinson's disease. The researchers transplanted tissue from fetal dopamine cells into the brains of patients with Parkinson’s in Canada.

Patients with severe symptoms experienced 50% fewer symptoms in the years after surgery. People who had been taking medication to control their Parkinson’s but found that the medicine no longer worked also saw significant improvements after surgery.

Looking at the brains of five patients after they died from non-Parkinson’s related illnesses, the scientists found that the transplanted cells stayed healthy. Earlier research led scientists to hypothesize that the cells would become corrupted, but the cells remained functional for at least 14 years after the patients got them. This is the first proof that this kind of transplant method could work.

"Though it is encouraging and even exciting to see some PD cells survive over a decade following a human transplant, we are still humbled by the challenges in developing a viable therapy," Dr. Michael Okun, national medical director for the National Parkinson Foundation, cautioned. "All transplants for Parkinson's disease remain hampered by an inability to constitute a complex multilevel brain circuitry."

Next, researchers will see whether they can replicate the success of this procedure using stem cells instead of the more controversial fetal cells.

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