The Neurotransplantation Center for Parkinson’s Disease was established in October 1986 to treat Parkinson’s disease using transplants of human fetal dopamine cells. The Center performed the first such transplant in the United States in 1988. To date more than 80 transplant operations have been conducted. In 1994, the Center received the first NIH grant awarded to perform a double-blind placebo-controlled transplant study, which has been renewed until at least 2002 to provide follow-up care for this unique cohort of patients. Curt R. Freed, MD, directs the Center, with neurosurgeon Robert E. Breeze, MD and neurologist Maureen A. Leehey as co-directors. Sharon Culver, RN, NP, is the Clinical Coordinator. The Center has a patient outreach program through the patient support group, the Parkinson’s Association of the Rockies, and regularly holds patient education workshops for the Parkinson’s support group. The Center together with University of Colorado Hospital, Swedish Hospital and the Parkinson’s Association of the Rockies holds an annual fundraiser to raise funds for clinical and basic research on Parkinson’s disease.
Basic research in animal models of Parkinson’s disease is aimed at improving survival of dopamine cell transplants and seeking alternatives to fetal tissue for transplant repair of the Parkinsonian brain. Thesis students and postdoctoral fellows are actively involved in all aspects of the research program.