Other Disease Models

Animal models of other neurodegenerative diseases have been developed and transplantation studies are being initiated. Huntington's disease has been modeled by injections of excitotoxic agents into the rodent striatum. Several groups have investigated transplants of fetal striatal tissue in this model with good results. Studies conducted in the nonhuman primate model also showed improvement of motor function. In these studies, transplanted neurons formed synaptic connections leading to the restoration of function. Because Huntington's disease can be identified genetically before the onset of symptoms or evidence of striatal degeneration, investigators have explored the potential of nerve growth factor to prevent striatal degeneration. Studies in the excitotoxic model and the mitochondrial dysfunction model show that grafts of fibroblasts genetically modified to secrete nerve growth factor protect striatal cells from degeneration. A murine model with Purkinje cell degeneration has been used to study hereditary ataxias. After transplantation of fetal cerebellar cells in these mice, transplanted cells migrated to the molecular layer and formed synaptic connections.

In addition to models of degenerative diseases, animal models of trauma and ischemia have been developed. Animal transplant studies in both traumatic brain and traumatic spine injuries have been initiated. Transplantation has also been evaluated in animal models of cortical and lacunar infarcts.

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