The clinical experience with cell replacement therapy for advanced PD has yielded notable successes and failures. A recent autopsy case report of an individual that received implants of fetal dopamine neurons 16 years previously, but at no time experienced clinical benefit despite the best documented survival of grafted neurons and most extensive reinnervation of the striatum, raises sobering issues. With good reason, a great deal of effort in cell replacement science continues to focus on optimizing the cell source and implantation procedure. Here, we describe our preclinical studies in aged rats indicating that despite survival of large numbers of transplanted dopamine neurons and dense reinnervation of the striatum, synaptic connections between graft and host are markedly decreased and behavioral recovery is impaired. This leads us to the hypothesis that the variability in therapeutic response to dopamine neuron grafts may be less about the viability of transplanted neurons and more about the integrity of the aged, dopamine‐depleted striatum and its capacity for repair. Replacement of dopamine innervation only can be fully effective if the correct target is present. © 2019 The Authors. Movement Disorders published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society.


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