WESTPORT, CT (Reuters Health) Dec 04 - In the December 5th issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigators report that fetal striatal tissue transplanted into a patient with Huntington's disease survived and developed, and was unaffected by the disease process.
Dr. Thomas B. Freeman, from the University of South Florida, in Tampa, and colleagues describe a 54-year-old man with Huntington's disease (HD) who had fetal striatal tissue transplanted into the putamen and caudate regions of the brain.
The patient died 18 months after transplantation from causes unrelated to the surgery. On postmortem examination, the authors were able to identify transplanted cells that had survived and maintained their striatal morphology. Further, the grafted cells were well integrated into the host's striatum.
On analysis of selective striatal projection markers and interneurons, the investigators identified "transplant regions that were clearly innervated by host tyrosine hydroxylase fibers." In addition, the transplanted fetal tissue lacked the neuronal protein aggregates of mutated huntingtin seen in Huntington's disease.
"It appears that transplanted cells (lacking the disease gene) are not affected by the HD disease process at least 18 months after surgery. The present findings are consistent with the view that implanted fetal cells are not vulnerable to the disease processes seen in neurodegenerative diseases," Dr. Freeman's team notes.
The histologic findings of this study agree with previous results in rodent and primate models of HD. The results are also consistent with autopsy studies of fetal neural allografts in patients with Parkinson's disease.
"This study supports the use of implanted fetal striatal tissue as a possible treatment for HD. Preliminary data from the cohort of seven patients involved in this open-label trial demonstrates that human fetal striatal grafts may at least provide short-term clinical benefit," the researchers conclude.
In a recent related story, investigators from France reported an improvement in motor and cognitive function in three HD patients who underwent fetal nerve transplant (See Reuters Health report, November 29, 2000.)
Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2000;97:13877-13882.
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