, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 549-561

Dopamine Cell Transplantation for Parkinson’s Disease: The Importance of Controlled Clinical Trials


Transplantation of human fetal dopamine neurons into the brain of Parkinson’s disease patients started in the late 1980s, less than 10 years after experiments in rats showed that embryonic dopamine neurons from a narrow window of development are suitable for transplantation. For human transplantation, the critical stage of development is 6 to 8 weeks after conception. Because putamen is the basal ganglia structure most depleted of dopamine in Parkinson’s disease and because it is the structure most closely mapped to the motor cortex, it has been the primary target for neurotransplantation. The double blind trial conducted at the University of Colorado, Columbia University, and North Shore University is the first controlled surgical trial performed in the field of neurosurgery. Results have shown that transplants of fetal dopamine neurons can survive transplantation without immunosuppression and without regard to the age of the patients. Transplants improved objective signs of Parkinson’s disease to the best effects of L-DOPA seen preoperatively. Placebo surgery produced no clinical changes. In subjects in whom transplants replaced the need for L-DOPA, the implants replicated the preoperative effects of L-DOPA, including dyskinesias in susceptible patients. Our trial has provided the first controlled evidence that dopamine cell transplants can improve the clinical state of patients with Parkinson’s disease.