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October 17, 1986


JAMA. 1986;256(15):2095. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03380150105030

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Basic research has again demonstrated its value in solving clinical problems. This time it has done so by means of fundamental observations regarding neural transplantation and molecular genetics, observations that hold promise for the development of therapeutic and diagnostic advances in nervous system disease.

Neural transplantation has been tried with mixed success since the turn of the century. In recent years, the functional reversal of neural deficits became feasible in lower forms such as amphibians and rodents. Recently, heterologous transplants have survived in primates, and in selected cases there has been functional recovery. Monkeys treated with 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (a frequent contaminant of street drugs) develop a parkinsonian syndrome. Transplants of fetal substantia nigra into the basal ganglia will reverse some of the motor impairments. This type of experiment raises hope for eventually successfully treating those disorders in which there may be neurotransmitter defects. Particularly challenging is the possibility of reversing the dementia