Brain cell transplant slows advance of fatal disease
A controversial operation involving the transplant of foetal brain cells into sufferers from a devastating brain disease has slowed the patients' decline.
Three patients who had holes drilled in their skulls and millions of cells extracted from aborted foetuses inserted into their brains were still benefiting from the treatment six years later, a study has shown.
The patients have Huntington's disease, an inherited brain disorder that leads to gradual mental and functional decline ending in death in 15 to 20 years. It is caused by a single faulty gene and parents who carry it have a 50 per cent chance of passing it on to their children.
Researchers have been experimenting with foetal brain cell transplants to treat the most serious brain disorders, including Huntington's and Parkinson's disease, for two decades. Several hundred patients have received the transplants in Europe and the US.
Six to eight foetuses are required to provide the necessary brain cells for each operation. Women were asked to donate foetal material only after they had decided to have an abortion.
Early results indicated limited success but the latest finding is the longest study of the effects of the treatment.
Experimental operations on Huntington's disease patients were carried out in France in the late 1990s led by researchers from the Henri Mondor hospital, Créteil. Five patients had the surgery of whom three benefited. In the other two the operation failed to slow the disease's progress.
Writing in The Lancet Neurology, published online today, Dr Anne-Catherine Bachoud-Levi said the procedure led to a period of "improvement and stability" for the three patients lasting several years. But then some functions associated with movement control started to deteriorate in what the researchers call "secondary decline".
They say the treatment is "not a permanent cure" for the condition, but offers a period of remission. Shortly after the start of the French study, doctors at Addenbrooke's hospital, Cambridge, carried out the same procedure on four British patients.
A BBC documentary broadcast in 2001 showed the first UK patient to undergo the operation. "Gaye", then aged 52, said: "The co-ordination is so much better. My legs used to buckle whenever I got up. That doesn't happen now."
A spokeswoman for the Huntington's Disease Association said: "We welcome any advance if people can be helped. But this is major brain surgery and there are risks."
- 1 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 2 Greece debt crisis explained: A history of just how the country landed itself in such a mess
- 3 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 4 Greek debt crisis: Yanis Varoufakis's funniest (and most memorable) quotes
- 5 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
Greece debt crisis explained: A history of just how the country landed itself in such a mess
Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
Man dies instantly after shooting firework from top of his head
Isis schoolgirl Amira Abase who fled London to join terrorists in Syria mocks victims of Tunisia massacre
Father faces deportation to Thailand after 27 years in Britain for two 'stupid crimes'
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative online car purc...
£12500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A subscriptions and marketing a...
£35,000 - £40,000 based on experience : Metail Ltd: As a Business Development ...
£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well establis...