Transplanted Adult Stem Cells Reduce Symptoms in San Clemente Man with Parkinson’s Disease
Symptoms of Parkinson's disease in a San Clemente man have "largely disappeared" after doctors removed stem cells from his brain, grew them into neurons and transplanted the neurons back into his brain, the Washington Post reports. The procedure, described yesterday at a meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, marks the first in which doctors transplanted "adult neural stem cells" -- stem cells that can "morph into every kind of brain cell" -- to a human. The neural stem cells may allow patients with Parkinson's to "essentially grow their own cures," the Post reports. As part of the procedure, Michel Levesque, a neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, removed 50 to 100 cells from the brain of the San Clemente patient and grew them in dishes for months. Levesque injected about six million of the cells, 35% of which were neurons, back into the man's brain. A "small fraction" of the neurons secreted dopamine, the chemical that when absent causes Parkinson's disease. Brain scans revealed an initial 58% rise in the man's dopamine levels, while his Parkinson's symptoms, including hand tremors, decreased. After a year, the man's symptoms had dropped by 83%, but the amount of dopamine in his brain had returned to pre-surgery levels. However, the man's Parkinson's symptoms "inexplicably" did not return (Weiss, Washington Post, 4/9).
The adult neural stem cell transplant "is sure to be used in the debate over the use of embryonic stem cells," Reuters/Boston Globe reports. Although "some groups" said the study indicated that adult stem cells "can be as useful as" embryonic stem cells, other scientists said that researchers should study both types of cells (Fox, Reuters/Boston Globe, 4/9). Doctors and neuroscientists at the meeting yesterday "warned against reading too much" into the results of the procedure and said that the reduction in Parkinson's symptoms could have resulted from other chemicals produced by the transplanted cells (Washington Post, 4/9). The FDA has approved a Phase II clinical trial for the new transplant technique that will include more patients (Reuters/Boston Globe, 4/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.