By Caroline Song

In Belmont, MA, Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital researchers have found a way to create better therapies for Parkinson’s disease. Fetal dopamine cells are transplanted in the brains of individuals with Parkinson’s disease and remained healthy and functional for nearly 14 years. The transplanted cells were able to create connections and function as nerve cells. Further research showed that the transplants were uncorrupted in the brains of 5 patients upon their death. This could indicate that there is a great need for developing a stem cell based dopamine neurological therapy. There have been 25 patients worldwide that have been treated with this method of transplanting fetal dopamine cells and many saw a huge improvement in their symptoms. It is the belief that the fetal transplant cells can reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s for many years. While this type of therapy seems incredibly promising for individuals with Parkinson’s disease where the disease impairs the dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain, little research has been able to show that transplanted cells are not eventually taken over by the disease as well. It is important to find out what can keep the transplanted cells alive and functioning. Other research that has been done in this area believed that the disease eventually corrupted the transplanted cells. However, the researchers at Mclean Hospital possibly believe that the difference in their study and the positive results came from their method of transplantation of the fetal cells. The hope is that the researchers will be able to grow the cells from stem cells because pulling the cells form fetal tissue is extremely hard. As of today there have been no stem cell transplants for Parkinson’s patients.

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