Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Target Articles

Some practical and theoretical issues concerning fetal brain tissue grafts as therapy for brain dysfunctions

Donald G. Steina1 and Marylou M. Glasiera1

a1 Laboratory of Brain Research and CNS Plasticity, Institute of Animal Behavior, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ 07102 Electronic mail: stein@draco.rutgers.edu

Abstract

Grafts of embryonic neural tissue into the brains of adult patients are currently being used to treat Parkinson's disease and are under serious consideration as therapy for a variety of other degenerative and traumatic disorders. This target article evaluates the use of transplants to promote recovery from brain injury and highlights the kinds of questions and problems that must be addressed before this form of therapy is routinely applied. It has been argued that neural transplantation can promote functional recovery through the replacement of damaged nerve cells, the reestablishment of specific nerve pathways lost as a result of injury, the release of specific neurotransmitters, or the production of factors that promote neuronal growth. The latter two mechanisms, which need not rely on anatomical connections to the host brain, are open to examination for nonsurgical, less intrusive therapeutic use. Certain subjective judgments used to select patients who will receive grafts and in assessment of the outcome of graft therapy make it difficult to evaluate the procedure. In addition, little long-term assessment of transplant efficacy and effect has been done in nonhuman primates. Carefully controlled human studies, with multiple testing paradigms, are also needed to establish the efficacy of transplant therapy.

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