Halifax. In December the Victoria General Hospital announced an expansion of its fetal brain tissue transplant program.  Begun in 1991, it involves transplanting living fetal brain tissue into the brains of selected patients with Parkinson’s Disease. Cells from several fetuses are needed for each injection.

Implanted fetal tissue survived and slowed progression of the disease in the test patients, reports Dr. Bernard Badley, program head and hospital president. They remain significantly disabled, but “suffered not serious complications as a result of the transplant.”

The new three3-year phase of the program, will focus on patients who are younger and/or in less advanced stages of the disease.

In a letter to the editor, Ian Maxwell (Fellow of the Royal Collage of Physicians) described the process as torture of the innocents. He pointed out that “the experiments involve obtaining the transplant material from the brains of living breathing fetuses without analgesia.” Dr. Maxwell described another approach, reportedly of equal effectiveness, which involves transplanting cells from the Parkinson’s patient’s own adrenal glands.

Halifax is the only site in Canada, and one of the few in the world, where researchers are experimenting with the controversial fetal transplants. The process was pioneered in Sweden.