Current therapeutic approaches for Parkinson's disease (PD) provide symptomatic relief but none of them change the course of disease. There is therefore a clear need for regenerative and cell replacement therapies (CRT). However, CRT faces several important challenges. First, the main symptoms of PD result from the loss of midbrain dopamine (DA) neurons, but other cell types are also affected. Second, transplantation of human ventral midbrain tissue from aborted fetuses has lead to proof of principle that CRT may work, however, it has also pointed out to important patient-, surgery- and cell preparation-related variables, which need to be improved. Third, while some patients have developed dyskinesias and, with time, Lewy bodies in the grafted cells, other patients have experienced remarkable improvement and have been able to stop their medication. Is there a case for PD CRT today? What is the possible contribution of stem cells to CRT? In this review, I will discuss what we learned from clinical trials using fetal tissue grafts, recent progress in the development of human stem cell-derived-DA neurons for CRT, and some of the issues that need to be solved in order to develop stem cells as tools for PD CRT.
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