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Brain cell transplant success revealed

Wednesday May 4th, 2016

A controversial brain cell transplant procedure pioneered in the 1980s achieved long term success in a small number of patients, researchers have reported.

The neuronal transplants were undertaken as a treatment for Parkinson's disease - and were pioneered at Lund University, Sweden.

The procedures usually involved the use of cells from aborted foetuses - and led to varied results, leading to their abandonment at the end of the last century.

The development of stem cell technology has revived interest in the procedure.

Scientists have now unveiled a study of one patient who died 24 years after having a transplant.

Some three years after the operation the patient was able to give up using L-dopa because of the improvement in his condition.

The researchers at Lund University say the study shows that the transplanted area of the patient's brain had completely normal dopamine function at the time of his death.

The findings are reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researcher Professor Olle Lindvall said: "Our findings show that transplanted nerve cells can survive and function for many years in the diseased human brain.

"This is the first time a patient has shown such a well-functioning transplant so many years after transplantation of nerve cells to the brain. At the same time, we have observed that the transplant's positive effects on this patient gradually disappeared as the disease spread to more structures in the brain."

Fellow researcher Professor Anders Björklund said: "This study is completely unique.

"No transplanted Parkinson's patient has ever been followed so closely and over such a long period. The patient was also unique in the sense that the nerve cells were only transplanted to one hemisphere of the brain, which meant that the other, which did not receive any transplant, could function as a control.

"What we have learnt from the study of this patient will be of great value for future attempts to transplant dopamine-producing nerve cells obtained from stem cells, a new development led by researchers in Lund."

Extensive graft-derived dopaminergic innervation is maintained 24 years after transplantation in the degenerating parkinsonian brain Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 3 May 2016 [abstract]

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Europe | Transplant

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