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The Oregon Health & Science University is one of 9 sites in a year long study to determine whether CERE-120 can reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is thought to be caused by the death of nerve cells that produce dopamine.

CERE-120 is comprised of both a gene and a virus using a process called gene transfer agent. The gene selected is thought to reactivate nerve cells so they will produce neuturin, a protein that may improve the function of dopamine-producing cells and protect them against damage.

The problem is how to get the gene into the region of the brain called the putamen, which is the part of the brain where dopamine nerve terminals are deteriorating because of Parkinson’s disease. The solution is to have the gene hitch a ride on a virus, which then attaches itself onto neurons. AAV2-NTN is such a virus that targets neurons and to humans it is harmless.

The combo gene-virus is injected directly into the putamen, where the dopamine nerve terminals are deteriorating because of Parkinson’s disease. Lead investigator John “Jay” Nutt, M.D., cautions that CERE-120 is not a miracle drug that restores nerve cells destroyed by Parkinson’s disease. Patients do not simply wake up restored to a pre-Parkinson’s condition. It is important to understand that the process works on injured dopamine neurons. Cells that have been destroyed cannot be resurrected.

What is hoped is that enough cells can be restored, which will mean the patient will have less severe symptoms when patients are off their standard Parkinson’s disease medications.

The study will take about 13 months. A 1-month eligibility period and 12 months of follow-up visits.

If you would like to know more about the study visit http://www.ohsu.edu/pco or call (503) 494-7231.