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Neural Regen Res. 2017 Mar;12(3):389-392. doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.202935.

Neural grafting for Parkinson's disease: challenges and prospects.

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John van Geest Center for Brain Repair, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.
Wellcome Trust - Medical Research Council Stem Cell Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.


Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative condition which causes a characteristic movement disorder secondary to loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substanitia nigra. The motor disorder responds well to dopamine-replacement therapies, though these result in significant adverse effects due to non-physiological release of dopamine in the striatum, and off-target effects. Cell-based regenerative treatments offer a potential means for targeted replacement of dopamine, in a physiological manner. Dopaminergic neurons for cell-based therapies can be obtained from several sources. Fetal ventral mesencephalon tissue contains dopaminergic neuron progenitors, and has been transplanted into the striatum of PD patients with good results in a number of cases. However, the ethical implications and logistical challenges of using fetal tissue mean that fetal ventral mesencephalon is unlikely to be used in a widespread clinical setting. Induced pluripotent stem cells can be used to generate dopaminergic neurons for transplantation, providing a source of autologous tissue for grafting. This approach means that challenges associated with allografts, such as the potential for immune rejection, can be circumvented. However, the associated cost and difficulty in producing a standardized product from different cell lines means that, at present, this approach is not commercially viable as a cell-based therapy. Dopaminergic neurons derived from embryonic stem cells offer the most promising basis for a cell-based therapy for Parkinson's disease, with trials due to commence in the next few years. Though there are ethical considerations to take into account when using embryonic tissue, the possibility of producing a standardized, optimized cell product means that this approach can be both effective, and commercially viable.


Parkinson's disease; cell-based therapies; embryonic stem cells; induced neurons; induced pluripotent stem cells; neural grafting

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