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Abstract

Autologous adrenal medullary tissue was transplanted unilaterally to the putamen in two patients with severe Parkinson's disease. The first patient exhibited a transient, two-day improvement of motor performance in the limbs contralateral to the implantation site. He also had significantly longer episodes of normal function for about two months. The second patient reported a minor improvement of balance and gait, again lasting for two months. Electrophysiological studies of the motor readiness and auditory evoked potentials were consistent with increased catecholaminergic activity in the basal ganglia after transplantation in both patients. Positron emission tomography showed no postoperative alteration of receptor density in the putamen. No significant adverse effects of the transplantation were observed in the patients' performance on neurological and psychological tests or in their quantitative electroencephalogram and cerebral blood flow recordings. Immediately after the grafting, one patient showed transient signs of sympathetic hyperactivity, probably caused by release of catecholamines from the implanted tissue into the peripheral circulation. We conclude that catecholamine-rich cellular implants in the basal ganglia have transient beneficial effects in patients with severe Parkinson's disease.