Practice Summaries of BMJ Clinical Evidence

Parkinson’s disease: fetal cell or stem cell derived treatments

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 07 January 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:h6340
  1. Arnar Astradsson, consultant neurosurgeon1,
  2. Tipu Aziz, professor of neurosurgery2
  1. 1Department of Neurorehabilitation, Traumatic Brain Injury Unit, Copenhagen University Hospital of Glostrup, Denmark
  2. 2Division of Clinical Neurology, Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, University of Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to: A Astradsson arnar.astradsson{at}

What you need to know

  • Neural transplantation with fetal cell or stem cell therapy is being evaluated as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease, especially in younger people and those who previously responded to levodopa

  • Stem cell therapy has not yet been evaluated clinically

  • However, there is currently insufficient evidence that such therapy improves clinical outcomes, although larger trials are in progress

Can Parkinson’s disease now be cured by fetal or stem cell therapy? Media stories of these new treatments are common.1 The main disease process in Parkinson’s disease is progressive loss of cells that produce dopamine from the substantia nigra in the brainstem. Treatment aims to replace or compensate for the lost dopamine. Levodopa and dopamine agonists have been the mainstay of treatment for years, but because side effects (such as dyskinesias) often develop or the effects of the drugs wear off, other treatments have been sought. Deep brain stimulation into the pallidum or subthalamic nucleus may also …

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