Transplantation of adrenal medulla into the caudate nucleus as treatment for Parkinson's disease was performed in eight patients. Although our previous 6-month follow-up revealed early modest improvement, an extension of that follow-up to 1 year disclosed no additional gains in any patient. At the end of 1 year, only one patient could be categorized as moderately improved; three patients were mildly improved, and four patients were unimproved. The rationale for transplanting adrenal medulla was to reestablish a physiologic source of dopamine to the striatum. We measured cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and plasma catecholamines and metabolites before and after transplantation. Conjugated dopamine (the predominant form of dopamine found in the CSF) and homovanillic acid (the major dopamine metabolite) were modestly and inconsistently increased in the CSF. Conjugated and free epinephrine and norepinephrine, as well as 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol concentrations were not increased in CSF after graft placement, an indication that the adrenal chromaffin cells were no longer producing high levels of these nondopamine catecholamines and metabolites. CSF cortisol concentrations were not increased after transplantation, compared with values from controls, consistent with low numbers of functioning adrenal cortical cells contaminating the graft (or poor survival). Posttransplantation CSF did not induce a neurotrophic effect in cell cultures of 15-day embryonic rat dorsal root ganglion or PC12 (rat pheochromocytoma) cell lines. Survival of samples of patients' adrenal medullary tissue for 2 weeks in tissue culture attested to the viability of the graft at the time of transplantation. The relative concentrations of dopamine to epinephrine or norepinephrine increased in these cultured adrenal medullary cells, presumably because of loss of the glucocorticoid influence on catecholamine synthesis. A wide variety of factors could have contributed to our failure to replicate the earlier impressive results of adrenal-to-brain transplantation reported by others. Continued transplantation studies in animal models of parkinsonism are necessary for better elucidation of these factors.
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