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Tuesday, 23 November, 1999, 10:02 GMT
Brain cell transplant success
Embryonic cells: A new imaging method was used to spot them

By Ania Lichtarowicz of BBC Science

A controversial transplant therapy for Parkinson's Disease, which uses cells from aborted human foetuses, could work for up to ten years after initial treatment.

A new study shows that the brain cell grafts are still functioning in one patient's brain a decade after transplantation.

Parkinson's Disease affects about one in every thousand adults and causes slowness of movement, rigidity and tremors. It is caused by the loss of a certain type of cell found in the part of the brain that controls voluntary movement.

The work published in the journal Nature Neuroscience looked at one patient who received a transplant of brain cells taken from an aborted foetus ten years ago.

The researchers used a new brain scanning technique to show that these grafted cells not only survive but also release the chemical dopamine. This substantially alleviates the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease.

New neurons not attacked

One of the team, Dr Paola Piccini from the Imperial College School of Medicine says the work is particularly encouraging as the transplanted neurons are not affected by Parkinson's disease and continue to function normally.

But another group of researchers in the United States, whose work has not yet been published, looked at a larger group of transplant patients.

Their work has been generally interpreted as only modestly encouraging. However, Dr Puccini says this is not surprising as the technique is very difficult to perform.

She says the next step in the treatment is to find new, less controversial, sources of dopamine cells for transplantation.

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See also:
29 Jun 99 |  Health
Cell hope in Parkinson's
28 Jul 99 |  Health
'Breakthrough' in Parkinson's treatment
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29 Jul 99 |  Health
Parkinson's part in Hitler's downfall

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