Neurobiology of disease

Interrogating the aged striatum: robust survival of grafted dopamine neurons in aging rats produces inferior behavioral recovery and evidence of impaired integration.

PMID 25771169


Advanced age is the primary risk factor for Parkinson's disease (PD). In PD patients and rodent models of PD, advanced age is associated with inferior symptomatic benefit following intrastriatal grafting of embryonic dopamine (DA) neurons, a pattern believed to result from decreased survival and reinnervation provided by grafted neurons in the aged host. To help understand the capacity of the aged, parkinsonian striatum to be remodeled with new DA terminals, we used a grafting model and examined whether increasing the number of grafted DA neurons in aged rats would translate to enhanced behavioral recovery. Young (3months), middle-aged (15months), and aged (22months) parkinsonian rats were grafted with proportionately increasing numbers of embryonic ventral mesencephalic (VM) cells to evaluate whether the limitations of the graft environment in subjects of advancing age can be offset by increased numbers of transplanted neurons. Despite robust survival of grafted neurons in aged rats, reinnervation of striatal neurons remained inferior and amelioration of levodopa-induced dyskinesias (LID) was delayed or absent. This study demonstrates that: 1) counter to previous evidence, under certain conditions the aged striatum can support robust survival of grafted DA neurons; and 2) unknown factors associated with the aged striatum result in inferior integration of graft and host, and continue to present obstacles to full therapeutic efficacy of DA cell-based therapy in this model of aging.