A recent, long-term study using PET to monitor the effectiveness of cell transplantation in patients with Parkinson’s disease has shown the importance and value of medical imaging as a research tool.

Researchers from the Neuroscience Center at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y., conducted a year-long, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in which they transplanted embryonic dopamingeric cells into Parkinson’s patients. The study had 33 participants and its results were published in a recent issue of the Journal of Nuclear Medicine.

During the course of the study, researchers monitored patients observing both improvements in motor ratings and increased brain uptake of 18F-fluorodopa (18F-FDOPA). This radiotracer is used to investigate the function of dopamine grafts. Using PET imaging technology, the research team found evidence of increased uptake one, two and four years after the transplantation surgery.

The use of PET gave researchers important insight into the viability of embryonic dopamingeric cell implantation. Quoted in a press release, Yilong Ma, Ph.D., lead author of the Journal of Nuclear Medicine study and associate investigator at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, noted: “This work provides a valuable template for conducting imaging-based trials of cell transplantation for Parkinson’s disease and perhaps other neurodegenerative disorders. It offers guidance in the design of this type of trial, particularly with respect to the use of quantitative imaging as an adjunct to clinical assessments.”

Parkinson’s disease, a motor system disorder that results from damage to the dopamine-producing cells in the brain, has no cure, but can currently be managed with pharmaceuticals. The Feinstein Institute study is among the novel interventions that are being studied by researchers across the nation.

(Source: Press Release)