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Retina Cell Implants Help Those With Parkinson's

After a year, many saw 48 percent improvement in symptoms, study found

TUESDAY, Dec. 13, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Implanting human retina cells into the brains of people with Parkinson's disease improved their motor symptoms, according to a preliminary study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The treatment also seemed to be safe and well-tolerated by the patients.

About three to five years after diagnosis, most Parkinson's patients require treatment with the drug levodopa to control symptoms such as tremors, rigidity, postural instability and a slowed ability to initiate and continue movements. Human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells produce levodopa.

In this study, six people with Parkinson's received RPE cell implants into their brains. The patients were then assessed at regular intervals for two years after the transplant.

"We observed an average improvement of 48 percent at 12 months after implantation in the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale motor subscore with the patient in the off state, which was sustained through 24 months," the study authors wrote. "Improvement was also observed in activities of daily living, quality of life, and motor fluctuations."

The findings appear in the December issue of the Archives of Neurology. The study received funding from Titan Pharmaceuticals Inc. Some of the researchers are employees of, or own stock or stock options in, Titan, and another researcher is a consultant for the company.

On the basis of this study's results, the researchers have started a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

More information

We Move has more about Parkinson's disease.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Dec. 12, 2005
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