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Transplanted brain cells hold promise for Parkinson's disease

found endogenous dopaminergic cells and transplanted neural stem cells had both survived. Also, transplanted neural cells had formed synapses to communicate with each other and ultimately the striatum, the portion of the brain dopaminergic cells act on to control movement.

"When we looked at the transplanted stem cells, they had survived, had differentiated into neurons and showed some connection with the host tissue," says Dr. Borlongan.

They did additional studies in test tubes, taking commercially available rat and human dopaminergic cells, exposing them to neurotoxins and then to stem cell factors. Stem cell factor protected cells in a dose-dependent fashion. "The more stem cell factor, the better the protection," Dr. Borlongan says. When the cells were co-cultured with stem cells, protection was further increased. When they used an antibody to block the stem cell factor, neuro-protection was significantly reduced. "This again shows a combination of factors at work," says Dr. Borlongan. "It’s a synergistic effect."

He’s now following rats with transplants for six months to see if the early protection/recovery holds up; he’s already past the three-month mark and to date, recovery is stable. While the rats needed immunosuppression because they received human cells, Dr. Borlongan says humans would not.

About a half-million Americans have Parkinson’s disease. Typically the disease does a lot of damage to dopaminergic cells before it becomes symptomatic. Although Parkinson’s is associated with abnormal movement, such as tremors, loss of these cells actually makes it difficult for people to move and, once they move, they can’t control the movement, Dr. Borlongan says. The standard treatment is L-dopa, a synthetic dopamine that tends to minimize symptoms for three to five years. As the disease progresses and the drug becomes less effective, doses are increased and can produce more dyskinesia, loss of controlled movement. Cente
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Source:Medical College of Georgia


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