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    Cell Transplants Help Parkinson's

    WebMD Health News

    April 17, 2002 -- Two different types of cell transplants and implants may help Parkinson's patients combat the symptoms of the disease. New research presented today at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology shows the experimental treatments could provide lasting benefits to people who suffer from the debilitating condition.

    One study found that embryonic cells transplanted into people with advanced Parkinson's can survive and continue to relieve symptoms for as long as eight years after the transplant. And the degree of relief provided by the transplant matches that found with levodopa, the most effective Parkinson's disease medication.

    "The results were directly proportionate to the results people had with levodopa before the transplant," says study author Curt Freed, MD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, in a news release. "At best, the transplants could improve symptoms equal to the best response to levodopa previously."

    But Freed says that also means patients who experienced involuntary, jerky movements as a side effect of the drug continued to have the same problems after the transplant.

    The 32 patients in the study received transplants of embryo dopamine cells into the brain. Dopamine acts as a messenger between brain cells, and the brains of people with Parkinson's produce less and less of this chemical as the disease progresses.

    Researchers say tests show that the transplants effectively increased dopamine activity in the part of the brain that received the transplants.

    Earlier results from this study had shown improvements in younger patients alone. But now researchers say the improvements are not related to the individual's age, but to how well the individual had responded to levodopa before the transplant.

    In fact, one of the patients worked in the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. He walked down 33 flights, ran 5 blocks, and walked three miles to a train station.

    Another study presented at the meeting shows early success with a new procedure in which cells taken from the back of the eye (retina) were implanted in the brains of six patients with advanced Parkinson's disease.

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