Unusual Cells May Help Treat Parkinson's Disease

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Science  27 Feb 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5355, pp. 1301
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5355.1301

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Scientists may have discovered a potential new treatment for Parkinson's disease, the degenerative brain condition that strikes 1% to 2% of people over age 65. In the February issue of Neuron, a research team reports that transplanting into the brains of rats cells from the carotid body, an organ that signals the brain to step up breathing if oxygen levels drop too low, reverses the symptoms of experimentally caused Parkinson's disease. Although carotid-body cells will have to pass many more tests before researchers can even consider trying them in patients, Parkinson's researchers say they may do a better job of correcting the defect of Parkinson's than do the fetal-brain cells sometimes used as a treatment--and they raise fewer ethical questions.