Although we have shown in three out of five patients with Huntington's disease that motor and cognitive improvements 2 years after intracerebral fetal neural grafts are correlated with recovery of brain metabolic activity in grafted striatal areas and connected regions of the cerebral cortex, neural grafts are not known to have protective effects on the host brain per se. We undertook long-term follow-up of previously reported patients with the disease to ascertain the nature and extent of any secondary decline after grafting.
Five patients with Huntington's disease from our pilot study were assessed annually with the unified Huntington's disease rating scale, neuropsychological tests, and MRI, for up to 6 years after neural grafting. Resting cerebral activity was recorded at 2 and 6 years.
Clinical improvement plateaued after 2 years and then faded off variably 4-6 years after surgery. Dystonia deteriorated consistently, whereas chorea did not. Cognitive performance remained stable on non-timed tests, whereas progression of motor disability was shown by deterioration on timed tests. Hypometabolism also affected the brain heterogeneously, sparing the benefits in the frontal cortex and at the precise location of the grafts, but showing a progressive deterioration in other areas. Two patients who had no benefit from grafting at 2 years continued to decline in the same way as non-grafted patients.
Neuronal transplantation in Huntington's disease provides a period of several years of improvement and stability, but not a permanent cure for the disease. Improvement of the surgical procedure and in patient selection could improve the therapeutic value, but neuroprotective treatment seems to be unavoidable in the disease.
"The adequate cell number and processing must be well established for each disease (Delcroix et al., 2010b). A better selection of patients and surgical procedure improvement should result in a better outcome for this therapy (Bachoud-Levi et al., 2006; Kondziolka et al., 2000; Lévesque, 2009). The safety of the therapy and the way to manage the potential uncontrolled cell proliferation or tumourigenicity inherent to pluripotent stem cells (ES and iPS cells) must be evaluated. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for neurological disorders such as cerebral ischemia, Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease. In recent years, many clinical trials with various cell types have been performed often showing mixed results. Major problems with cell therapies are the limited cell availability and engraftment and the reduced integration of grafted cells into the host tissue. Stem cell-based therapies can provide a limitless source of cells but survival and differentiation remain a drawback. An improved understanding of the behaviour of stem cells and their interaction with the host tissue, upon implantation, is needed to maximize the therapeutic potential of stem cells in neurological disorders. Organotypic cultures made from brain slices from specific brain regions that can be kept in culture for several weeks after injecting molecules or cells represent a remarkable tool to address these issues. This model allows the researcher to monitor/assess the behaviour and responses of both the endogenous as well as the implanted cells and their interaction with the microenvironment leading to cell engraftment. Moreover, organotypic cultures could be useful to partially model the pathological state of a disease in the brain and to study graft-host interactions prior to testing such grafts for pre-clinical applications. Finally, they can be used to test the therapeutic potential of stem cells when combined with scaffolds, or other therapeutic enhancers, among other aspects, needed to develop novel successful therapeutic strategies or improve on existing ones.
"Several strategies have been explored to replace degenerated neurons in order to restore networks in the striatum. In earlier pilot studies, bilateral transplantation of embryonic tissue in the caudate of HD patients has lead to a short benefit in some patients . A long-term multicentric study on the efficacy of intracerebral grafting is now ongoing in Europe and results are expected after final completion scheduled in Mai 2013 (http://clinicaltrials.gov, identification number: NCT00190450). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Research on the molecular mechanisms involved in Huntington's disease, a monogenic disorder with a complex phenotype including motor, behaviour, and cognitive impairments, is advancing at a rapid path. Knowledge on several of the multimodal pathways has now lead to the establishment of rational strategies to prepare trials of several compounds in affected people. Furthermore, improved understanding of the phenotype and on ways of assessing it, as well as the process of developing biomarkers, allows setting the frame for such studies. In this brief review, the present status of some of these aspects is examined.
"One patient worsened after cyst formation on one grafting site. A follow-up report comprising the long term clinical course six years after grafting described a slight worsening in three patients, which was more dominant in motor outcome than for cognitive improvement (Bachoud-Lévi et al., 2006). PET-scanning showed increased frontal and striatal glucose metabolism in three patients, which had an overall stable clinical course. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the basal ganglia circuitry, the striatum is a highly complex structure coordinating motor and cognitive functions and it is severely affected in Huntington's disease (HD) patients. Transplantation of fetal ganglionic eminence (GE) derived precursor cells aims to restore neural circuitry in the degenerated striatum of HD patients. Pre-clinical transplantation in genetic and lesion HD animal models has increased our knowledge of graft vs. host interactions, and clinical studies have been shown to successfully reduce motor and cognitive effects caused by the disease. Investigating the molecular mechanisms of striatal neurogenesis is a key research target, since novel strategies aim on generating striatal neurons by differentiating embryonic stem cells or by reprogramming somatic cells as alternative cell source for neural transplantation.
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