The patient will be monitored for two years and given immune suppressing drugs to minimise the risk of rejection. The cells were dopamine-producing neurons made from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from a donor.
'We made a hole in the frontal part of the head's left side and transplanted some 2.4 million cells,' Dr Takayuki Kikuchi, a surgeon at Kyoto University Hospital in Japan who performed the three-hour operation, said at a press conference.
The first transplant is intended to ensure that the procedure is safe and to monitor for complications. The researchers report that so far, the patient has had no adverse reactions to the cells. If the patient continues to tolerate the treatment, six more Parkinson's patients will be enrolled in the trial.
The iPS cells were injected into the left side of the patient's brain with a view to repeating the procedure on the right side in six months' time, reports Japan's national broadcaster NHK. The treatment aims to replenish the brain cells that produce dopamine, which are lost in Parkinson's disease, leading to debilitating symptoms of tremors and movement difficulties.
'The best scenario is to see patients improve to the extent they do not have to take any medicine,' Professor Jun Takahashi of the university's Centre for iPS Cell Research and Application who led the research team, said at the press conference. Professor Takahashi added that the aim was to mass-produce viable nerve cells from iPS cells to produce a treatment that could be scaled up commercially.
'Cell therapy offers the possibility of replacing neurons that are lost in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's,' said Dr Todd Sherer, chief executive of the Parkinson's charity the Michael J. Fox Foundation, said when the trial was announced earlier this year (see BioNews 961).
'The goal of these therapies is to restore function to people affected by this disease, essentially reversing disease course.'