A cell transplant method has been proven to work for at least Parkinson’s disease sufferers .
Researchers have found that dopamine neurons derived from fetal tissue can remain healthy for many years when transplanted into the midbrains of adult patients with Parkinson’s disease.
The tremors and other symptoms which characterise Parkinson’s disease result from the loss of dopamine-producing neurons.
Neuron transplantation can replace failing neurons with healthy ones from a donor source, but there were questions about the health of those transplanted cells over time.
Fetal cell transplants can reduce both Parkinson’s symptoms for many years and can reduce the need for dopamine replacement drugs, even though they can take months or years to start working.
The findings, reported in the Cell Press journal Cell Reports, suggest that transplanted neurons don’t degenerate over time as some had feared they would, which provides further rationale for pursuing stem cells as a source for transplant-ready dopamine neurons.
“Our findings show a robust expression of dopamine transporters and a lack of abnormal mitochondrial morphology in implanted dopamine neurons for at least 14 years after transplantation,” said Ole Isacson of Harvard University and McLean Hospital.
Isacson said it is now clear fetal cell transplantation has been beneficial for patients with
Some patients have continued to improve clinically for decades without any medication for the disease at all.
The therapeutic approach, in which a cell suspension derived from fetuses is injected directly into the relevant portion of the brain, has been offered to only a limited number of patients in clinical trials.
“Our findings are extremely encouraging and timely for the field of regenerative medicine and for advancing stem cell-derived dopamine neuron transplantation as a restoration therapy for Parkinson’s disease,” Isacson said.
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