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Parkinson Patients Benefit from Retinal Cell Implant

Promising pilot study prompts randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study

TUESDAY, Dec. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Implanting human retinal pigment epithelial cells in the brain appears to improve motor symptoms in patients with Parkinson disease, according to the results of a pilot study published in the December issue of the Archives of Neurology.

Natividad P. Stover, M.D., of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and colleagues studied six patients with advanced Parkinson disease who received brain implants of human retinal pigment epithelial cells attached to gelatin microcarriers. They evaluated the patients at one and three months after surgery, and then at three-month intervals until 18 months and again at 24 months.

The researchers found that the implants were well tolerated. About a year after implantation, there was an average of 48% improvement in the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale motor subscore when the patients were in the off state. There was also an improvement in the activities of daily living and quality of life, and there were no off-state dyskinesias.

"On the basis of the motor improvement and tolerability observed in this open-label study, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study has been initiated to more objectively test efficacy and continue to assess safety," the authors write.

This study was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and Titan Pharmaceuticals. Several co-authors are consultants, employees or own stock in Titan.

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