A new therapy for Parkinsonís disease

Direct brain infusion of a protein



Steven Gill of the Institute of Neuroscience in Bristol leads a team of researchers who have implanted a thin plastic tube into the patientsí brain and a small pump in their stomach, infusing a protein (GDNF) known to nourish the neurons that degenerate in Parkinsonís disease. The protein is a trophic molecule called glial-cell-line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) which has been administered for two years. It seems that dopaminergic cells involved in the pathologic process of degeneration began to sprout and produced more dopamine; it is the first time a treatment has reversed disease progression.

One of the patient on trial, previously housebound, has joined a bowls team (S. S. Gill et al. Direct brain infusion of glial cell line derived neurotrophic factor in Parkinson disease. Nature Medicine, published online, doi:10.1038/nm850, 2003).

Although Gill thinks that in five years this could become a routine treatment, we suggest to take the results with a pinch of salt and wait for more controlled studies outcome: a long term infusion might cause unknown effects.


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