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Still hope for adrenal-cell transplants.

Still hope for adrenal-cell transplants

In a series of experimental procedures begun approximately two years ago, surgeons have removed adrenal-gland tissue from 22 people with Parkinson's disease and transplanted it into the patients' brains. Follow-up studies now indicate the treatment may have some value, says transplant team leader George S. Allen of Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

So far, neither adrenal-tissue transplants nor the more controversial transplants of fetal brain tissue (SN: 2/3/90, p.70) have shown overwhelming benefits for Parkinson's patients. On average, Allen reports, the adrenal-tissue recipients show modest improvement after the first two months, then stabilize at that level. In comparison, he notes, Parkinson's patients on standard treatment tend to worsen over the years.

Allen says he remains uncertain what prompts the improvement. Evidence from his studies suggests it involves more than a simple replacement of the neurotransmitter dopamine --present in adrenal tissues and in short supply in Parkinson's brains -- and may be due in part to the presence of certain nerve-nurturing substances in adrenal tissue, he says. To find out whether something about the surgical procedure itself triggers improvement even without a transplant, Allen would like to conduct randomized trials in which some patients receive the tissues while others receive sham operations. But he says he's had trouble getting volunteers for the brain surgery without guaranteeing that they'll receive the tissue.
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Author:Weiss, Rick
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 3, 1990
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