- A man with Parkinson's disease has been cured in a breakthrough
that offers hope to millions of people worldwide, it was revealed yesterday.
- The disease was gone within a month, and 18 months later
the patient was still symptom-free and medication-free, despite having
suffered Parkinson's for 15 years.
- The illness was reversed using cells taken from the American
man's own brain, which were treated in the laboratory then returned to
- Doctors are impressed with the results, but warn that
large-scale clinical trials are needed to verify the one-off cure.
- The breakthrough, which raises hope for millions of sufferers,
including an estimated 50,000 in Australia, was revealed yesterday by
the Spinal Cord Society.
- The society, which helped fund the research, also revealed
the treatment secured the approval of the influential US Food and Drug
Administration in mid-2000, giving the green light for large-scale human
- The man was treated at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre's
Neurofunctional Surgery Centre in Los Angeles, by neurosurgeon Dr Michel
- The cure also raises hopes for treatments to reverse
damage caused by spinal cord injuries as well as stroke and epilepsy.
- Spinal Cord Society of Australia president George Owen
said it was unknown when large-scale human trials would begin.
- "There is still work to do, but the facts are that
one man has had his own cells put back and within a month lost all his
symptoms, and he's been off his medication for 18 months," said Mr
Owen, a Victorian surgeon.
- "That's an absolutely brilliant outcome. Now we
need to repeat this on other patients so it can become a mainstream treatment
- "One of the downsides is this requires a brain biopsy,
and that is not without its risks. There's a 1 per cent mortality rate.
- "But these people are desperate. People are dying
of this disease."
- The cells harvested from the patient's brain are stem
cells, premature cells which can be made to grow into any type of cell.
- Scientists stimulate these stem cells to become dopamine-producing
cells, which are the brain cells destroyed in patients with Parkinson's.
- Millions of these cells are grown and then returned to
the patient's brain, replacing cells destroyed by the disease and thereby
reversing the illness.
- The treatment must pass large clinical trials before
it will be widely available. It is hoped Australian patients could be included
- Actor Michael J. Fox's much-publicised battle with Parkinson's
has raised the disease's profile and hastened the race for a cure.
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