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Despite Earlier Doubts, Feinstein Study Shows Fetal Transplants May Benefit Parkinson's Patients Over Age 60
Date:12/31/2009

d into their brains. It was a double-blinded study so that 19 patients received the fetal cells and 14 others had a sham surgery and were offered the fetal cell transplant a year later. But by that time, the word had come out about the devastating side effect (the dyskinesias) and some older people opted out of the second surgery.

The Feinstein researchers have now looked at the brains of the transplanted patients two years and four years after the initial infusion of fetal cells. And they learned a few things: Beyond the first five people who developed dyskinesia, none of the other 15 younger people in the study showed signs of the troubling side effect. In about 25 percent of the cases, clinical improvement was noted and the transplanted cells were still working to make the dopamine up to four years later.

They also discovered that the older people gradually got better after the first year and that their improvements continued over the long term. “The older the brain, the harder it is to integrate the graft,” said Dr. Eidelberg. “But the PET scans told us that the graft was viable. And it took awhile before the cells worked to improve symptoms.”

The Feinstein group has identified two different brain networks hard hit in the disease. One is obvious: the motor regions that, when damaged, lead to tremors, rigidity and difficulty initiating movement. The other piece relates to cognition and mood, and there are discrete brain regions that worsen over time. In this study, researchers found that people did better overall on motor functions if they entered the study with their putamen intact – putamen is an area of the brain that governs cognition and mood. Dopamine is the key brain chemical in both these networks and it is critical for motor planning. When dementia sets in, people may have improvements in the motor network, but it isn’t observable because their cognitive network is abnormal and their ability
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Despite Earlier Doubts, Feinstein Study Shows Fetal Transplants May Benefit Parkinson's Patients Over Age 60
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