Human neural transplantation

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Great advances in neurobiology have resulted from 100 years of neural transplantation research. In the last 20 years, there has been a focus on using neural transplantation to repair the damaged central nervous system (CNS) utilising experimental animal models of various human neurodegenerative disease and CNS injury. Since 1985, there has been a rapid proliferation of adrenal medullary autograft transplantation to the caudate nucleus of humans with Parkinson's disease. However, this operation proved to be unsuccessful and was associated with unacceptable morbidity. Implantation of human fetal mesencephalon into patients with severe parkinsonism has supplanted the adrenal operation and has produced promising results, with some patients reported to improve markedly and some evidence of graft survival noted on positron emission tomography (PET). Host tissue recovery appears to be an important mechanism for this clinical improvement. The optimal technique is to use three to four fetuses from induced abortions of 6.5 to 8 weeks gestation, with multiple stereotactic implants into the putamen and caudate nucleus. Many biological questions still remain and the community remains troubled by the ethical problems of using fetal tissue obtained from abortions. This procedure is still experimental and should be restricted to a few centres with excellence in cell and molecular biology. A multicentre study is needed to more carefully evaluate CNS transplantation. Cloned neural precursor cells or immortalized embryonic cell lines genetically modified to manufacture selected growth factors or neurotransmitters may offer an alternative to the use of human fetal tissue. Much more experimental animal research is necessary before transplantation can be used to treat other CNS maladies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-242
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Neuroscience
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal models
  • Fetal tissue
  • Genetic engineering
  • Growth factors
  • Neural transplantation
  • Parkinson's disease

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