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Open Access Commentary

Optimizing functional imaging protocols for assessing the outcome of fetal cell transplantation in Parkinson's disease

Marios Politis

Author Affiliations

Centre for Neuroscience, Department of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College London, London W12 0NN, UK

BMC Medicine 2011, 9:50  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-50

Published: 10 May 2011

Abstract

Clinical trials aiming to assess the safety and efficacy of fetal cell transplantation in Parkinson's disease rely on the hypothesis that the grafted tissue will survive and grow, restore striatal dopaminergic neurotransmission, improve the connectivity between striatum, thalamus and cortex and, thereby, produce long-lasting clinical improvement while avoiding the development of adverse effects. Although transplantation of human fetal ventral mesencephalic tissue has been reported as one of the most effective reparative therapies in Parkinson's disease patients to date, different studies have shown inconsistent results causing a paucity of new trials over the last decade. However, during this period, functional imaging alongside other scientific developments from clinical observations and animal work has significantly aided in understanding the mechanisms responsible for the success or failure of grafting human fetal tissue. Recent advances in functional imaging including both positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging could be proven useful in vivo tools for the development and assessment of new clinically competitive trials. In this commentary we discuss how an optimized functional imaging protocol could assist new clinical trials using fetal cell transplantation in Parkinson's disease.