Washington, Apr 29 : Scientists have announced the development of a new cell therapy that can improve the symptoms of patients with moderate to advanced Parkinson's disease (PD).
The study led by neurosurgeon Dr. Roy A. E. Bakay from Rush University Medical Centre and colleagues from Emory University, Atlanta has found that patients who were given Spheramine therapy showed improvement in Parkinsonian symptoms including tremor, rigidity, slowness of movements, and impaired balance and coordination.
"The results of this study are very encouraging - Spheramine is well tolerated through several years of follow-up and improvement in parkinsonian symptoms is sustained," said Bakay.
In new therapy, retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells were attached to tiny gelatin bead microcarriers and implanted in the brain.
RPE cells produce levodopa, the precursor of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced by nerve cells in the brain that progressively declines as the disease progresses.
The RPE cells found in the back of the eye were cultured under standardized conditions and attached to the microscopic beads prior to implantation. The microcarriers are necessary for the cells to survive in the brain.
The patients were selected on the basis of disease stage, levodopa responsiveness, and severity of PD symptoms while off medication. The cells were surgically implanted into the more affected side of the brain.
They studied six patients with moderate to advanced PD to investigate the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of the Spheramine implantation. The full patient group has been evaluated for four years, and several have been monitored for six years.
The researchers measured the improvements Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS). It showed 44 percent improvement from baseline at 48 months and quality of life scores showed 23 percent improvement from baseline at 48 months. Several of these patients have been monitored for 6 years and the trial has been extended to 10 years of follow-up.
The findings were presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons in Chicago on April 28, 2008.