Prof. Dr. med. Wolfgang Oertel
Neurologists warn against stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s patients

21, 2010 – Based on current knowledge there is no scientific basis for the treatment of Parkinson’s patients with so-called adult stem cells. During the annual conference of the German Neurological Society (DGN) in Nuremberg, experts on Parkinson’s disease advised strongly against treatments offered at a cost of several thousand Euros by XCell-Centres in Cologne and Dusseldorf.  "Current scientific knowledge sees no benefit of any kind from the offered stem cell treatment with adult stem cells. Patients who have raised their hopes hereupon should be aware of this", warns Professor Wolfgang Oertel, Chairman of the German Parkinson Society and board member of the German Neurological Society.

zur deutschen Pressemitteilung vom 23.09.2009
zur deutschen Pressemitteilung vom 23.06.2009

The XCell-Centre offers two different types of interventions for the "stem cell therapy of Parkinson’s Disease". For each of them bone marrow is initially extracted from the hip bone and its stem cells transplanted back into the body after a couple of days in culture.  
According to the XCell website the cost of one injection of these cells into the liquor by means of lumbar puncture or the implantation of the stem cells directly into the brain amounts to 7,454 or 26,000 Euros respectively. These costs are not covered by the statutory health insurance as they are only obliged by law to cover what is considered sufficient, appropriate and economical – which evidently does not apply to stem cell therapy with adult stem cells of Parkinson’s disease.

Patient Petra Aschenbeck, who spoke today at the annual conference in Nuremberg about her treatment in the XCell Centre, recounts: "When my medical condition incapacitated me for my work as a registrar, I came across the offer on the Internet. It illustrated the case of a man who returned to driving a car and motor cycle after the treatment, almost as though he had been cured of Parkinson’s."
Without consulting her neurologist she opted for the treatment and came up with its cost of 7,500 Euros, payable in advance,  with the help of her parents. "I thought it would help, but after five weeks I felt worse than before. I would not recommend it to anyone", says Aschenbeck who is back in treatment with a specialist in neurology and whose symptoms have improved since then.

The offers by the private clinics based in Cologne and Dusseldorf are regarded as dubious by the medical profession. They are available on the Internet if searched for with relevant terms. Inevitably the Internet user is confronted with adverts which talk about "first successes with innovative stem cell therapy in Germany". Apart from Parkinson’s disease similar interventions are said to have been performed for Alzheimer’s disease and ALS, arthrosis and diabetes, heart diseases and multiple sclerosis, and claim to also have helped after strokes and with injuries of the spinal cord.

In the meanwhile there is, however, no published scientific evidence for the validity of these claims. "There is no scientific evidence on the efficacy, no scientific evidence for its safety and tolerance and there is no scientifically justified assessment of its benefits and risks. For this reason I am unable to recommend this therapy to any patient", says Parkinson expert Oertel, director of the Department of Neurology at the Marburg University. He therefore calls upon the legislative body to put a stop to such treatment offers.
The improbability of an alleviation of Parkinson’s disease by an insertion of a cell preparation is illustrated by scientific fact:
The disease is accompanied by the loss of a comparatively minute amount of highly specialised cells which are found deep inside the brain – within the substantia nigra. These complex cross-linked cells produce the messenger Dopamine. Today a wide array of drugs is available to balance this decline or loss of cells.   

Experienced neurologists combine these drugs in such a way that most of the patients with Parkinson’s disease have a near-to-normal life expectancy.   Surgical procedures will also be considered for advanced stages of the disease, especially the 'deep brain stimulation', which enables a reduction of drugs by up to 50 percent and produces an equally good mobility throughout the whole day. This was proven in numerous studies which were published in prestigious professional journals and the results of which are freely accessible in public databases.

In contrast there is no scientific evidence for the efficacy of the treatments offered by the XCell-Center and similar institutions. This is also not to be expected as it would imply that the stem cells of the blood would replace the function of the failed Dopamine-producing cells without further assistance and integrate into the existing network of other nerve cells. Even in such an event the progression of the disease would not be affected. "The point is to avert damage from the patient", ascertains Oertel in conclusion.

The German Neurological Society (DGN) 
is a professional neurological association with social responsibility. It has more than 6,000 members and seeks to improve the medical care for neurological patients in Germany. The DGN supports science and research as well as the teaching, training and continuous professional development in the field of neurology and participates actively in health care policy discussions. The DGN was founded 1907 in Dresden. The society’s office is based in Germany’s capital Berlin.

Media contact: Frank A. Miltner, Ph: 089 46148622, Email:

Press officer: Prof. Dr. Hans-Christoph Diener, Essen

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Neurologie e.V.(German Neurological Society): Office, Reinhardtstr. 14, 10117 Berlin, Ph: 030 531437930

Secretary: Dr. Thomas Thiekötter
Chairman: Prof. Dr. med. Heinz Reichmann

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