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Levesque at Cedar Sinai: Parkinson's Breakthrough

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    Levesque at Cedar Sinai: Parkinson's Breakthrough

    Parkinson's Breakthrough
    LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Parkinson's disease is debilitating for most patients, but that may be changing. A new surgical technique has worked wonders on one Parkinson's patient, and doctors say it may be the key to a cure.

    A few short years ago, Dennis Turner would hardly have been able to hold his paper or his orange juice. He says, "The hand would shake and make you feel ugly. Your balance was kind of affected."

    But Turner took back his life when he underwent a revolutionary procedure. It involved the transplantation of his own brain's stem cells. "They were not fetal cells. They were my cells, so I wouldn't have to take any anti-rejection medication the rest of my life."

    Doctors took some of Turner's stem cells and introduced chemicals that forced the cells to change form. They became neurons that secrete dopamine, a critical substance lacking in Parkinson's patients. Months later, the new cells were implanted into Turner.

    Neurosurgeon Michel Levesque, M.D., of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, tells Ivanhoe, "We amplify the number by several millions, and then the kind of cells that we introduce are mature neurons, whereas initially we harvested a few, 20 to 50, stem cells."

    Turner is now 80 percent better than he was before the procedure. That means he can once again do the things the rest of us take for granted.

    "I don't have the stiffness in the arms anymore. I can put my contacts in without having to hit and miss and poke myself in the eye," says Turner.

    Doctors caution it's too early to be sure the procedure works as well as it seems. But if Turner's case is no fluke, researchers could be looking at a Parkinson's breakthrough.

    Doctors at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center are now expanding their trial to see if they can achieve the same results with more patients. Dr. Levesque believes the great improvement may have something to do with some other component of the stem cells.

    If you would like more information, please contact:

    Blanca Solis
    Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
    Neurofunctional Centers
    8631 W. 3rd St., Suite 215-E
    Los Angeles, CA 90048
    (310) 423-1699