Scientists at Cambridge University implanted a man with Parkinson’s in his mid-50s with foetal brain stem cells on 18th May 2015. This is the first transplantation of this type after about 20 years.
The sequence of experiments with this technique in the 90s was ended after an observation period of 2 years in most transplantees as having limited success, some having also developed serious movement disturbances. In regular checks after 5-7 years, though, a series of the patients showed clear improvements up to discontinuation of the Parkinson’s drugs and a return to a largely normal life (see also here).
To be able to study this effect more closely, the series of experiments was now taken up again, although foetal cells only have a very limited availability. In all, 19 patients will receive the transplantation and detectable effects are expected around 3 to 6 months after the operation.
These experiments serve primarily to prepare transplantation of dopamine neurons grown from the body’s own cells (more on that here), which can already be produced (in practically unlimited quantity) and are currently being prepared for the approval process. The Cambridge researchers are assuming that clinical trials with these new cells, that is, their transplantation into the brains of Parkinson’s patients, can begin in 2017.
Further information: Press release