Spanish surgeons report unimpressive results using transplantsof patients' own adrenal glands to treat Parkinson's disease.

In the current edition of The Lancet, an anatomy researcherfrom McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, suggested thatco-transplanting peripheral nerve tissue along with the adrenaltissue would help survival of the adrenal cells that makedopamine, the nerve messenger missing in Parkinson's disease.

The doctors from Universidad Autonoma in Madrid used thisapproach, implanting minced nerve from between patient's ribsinto their brains along with pieces of their adrenal glands. Thepatients showed limited improvements for the first two weeksafter surgery, then experienced gradual deterioration, thesurgeons reported in a letter.

Meanwhile, a team of researchers from several Britishuniversities reported that they have kept human fetal braincells alive in the laboratory for possible use as therapeutics inthe degenerative disease.

The scientists wrote that their cultures of human ventralmesencephalon cells, originally obtained from fetuses of 7 to 11weeks gestation, "might overcome some of the difficulties withsupplies of human brain tissue for transplant procedures byproviding a cryopreserved bank of such tissue" for treatingParkinson's patients.

Somatix Therapy Corp. (NASDAQ:SOMA) has a Parkinson'sprogram that involves surgically implanting into the brainfibroblasts inserted with the gene for the enzyme that makesdopamine. The Alameda, Calif., company is aiming to move theprogram into the clinic by the third or fourth quarter of thisyear. -- Roberta Friedman, Ph.D.

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