Transplantation of fetal cells in the brains of people with Parkinson has improved motor symptoms (tremor, rigidity) of 25 volunteers, according to preliminary data from a study conducted by Ole Isacson, McLean Hospital, published in the journal Cell Reports.

“Transplants reversed motor disorders of Parkinson’s patients and reached a level where they did not need any medication for their disease,” said Isacson by email to HOME.

The trial began 14 years ago and 25 volunteers participated. In all the results in terms of its symptoms are similar, the study’s authors suggest. But – and this is why they now publish the results – now researchers have observed the brains of five of those volunteers who have died, and found that the transplanted cells were still in perfect condition. This means that they have not been affected by the neurodegenerative process in the brain of patients. None of the deceased died as a result of Parkinson’s. ” We’ve seen them and they look very healthy,” said the researcher.

“We studied the postmortem brain in depth and in great detail. But also, we have seen the recovery of the functionality of other patients who are alive and we have positive evidence by PET imaging (Positron Emission Tomography) transplants that are working, ” said Isacson.

The key to the study is that it used dopaminergic cells obtained from fetuses to supplement the function of releasing dopamine (a neurotransmitter) that deteriorates the neurons of patients for reasons not yet known. More in detail, it is seen that there is no deterioration in the mitochondria, cellular organelles whose function is to act as cell power plants, and it has been seen in other studies that are affected in people with Parkinson’s.

The trial reopens the possibility of biological treatments for this disease, the second of which affect the brain after Alzheimer’s. Transplanted cells supplement other treatments, such as implants or medication that provides dopamine.

Furthermore, Isacson believes this work, which began long before the rise of stem cells, reopens the possibilities of applying this biological material to the disease. There have been some trials, but early results were disappointing because the affected developed tumors. The researcher believes that the technique he used, with microinjection of fetal cells rather than  implants of larger portions, may be the cause of attempt has worked. Miquel Vila, head of Neurological Diseases Research Institute Vall d ‘ Hebron and member of the Center for Biomedical Research in Neurodegenerative Disease (CIBERNED) rate mainly two aspects of the work. ” Previous studies had found that the implanted cells were infected from Parkinson. This was seen as reproduced inside the accumulation of a characteristic protein,  forming Lewy bodies. As the authors say, this has not occurred here. “

This is important because, for whatever reason, has avoided a drawback of these transplants: after a difficult process, lost effectiveness over time. ” It was a similar process that has been compared to that of the mad cow prions, in which a protein is spread to healthy cells,” explains the scientist.

In addition, preliminary tests such therapies showed another problem: that, as with levodopa, the most common way to treat people with Parkinson’s medication, had an adverse side effect, like a rebound, and passed from that patients had stiffness showing uncontrolled movements. “With medication that is solved regulating it, but with cells that can not do,” says Vila. It seems that now it was not so, adds the scientist.

The doctor also notes another aspect to consider: “In Parkinson’s there is the involvement of other non- dopaminergic neural pathways and motor causing no significant changes in these patients (depression, dementia, sleep disorders),” which can not be try that.

With all due caution, Vila is optimistic: “These two aspects give new impetus to biological therapies,” says the researcher.