Flunarizine improves the survival of grafted dopaminergic neurons

Gabriele Schierle, Oskar Hansson, Patrik Brundin

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review


Embryonic nigral grafts can survive, reinnervate the striatum and reverse functional deficits in both experimental and clinical Parkinsonism. A major drawback is that only around 10% of the implanted dopaminergic neurons survive. The underlying mechanisms leading to this 90% cell death are not fully understood, but oxidative stress and a substantial loss of neurotrophic support are likely to be involved. Hypoxia and mechanical trauma, which are unavoidable during tissue preparation, may be a trigger for cell death. Recent studies have provided evidence that the type of cell death occurring is, to a large extent, apoptotic. Flunarizine is an antagonist of L-, T- and N-type calcium channels, which permits calcium entry into cells via a voltage-dependent mechanism. Flunarizine has been shown to protect neurons against death induced by serum deprivation, nerve growth factor deprivation, oxidative stress, axotomy and ischemia. This study was designed to investigate whether flunarizine can protect grafted embryonic dopaminergic neurons from death when implanted in a rat model of Parkinson's disease. Addition of 1 microM flunarizine inhibited cell death in a suspension of cells derived from the rat's ventral mesencephalon and when such a treated suspension was injected into the neostriatum there was a 2.6-fold greater number of surviving dopaminergic neurons, a doubling of the graft volume and a doubling of the volume of the host neostriatum innervated by dopaminergic fibers from the graft, compared with suspensions not exposed to flunarizine. Furthermore, rats injected with cells that had been exposed to flunarizine displayed a greater recovery of function in the amphetamine-induced rotation test.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-20
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999

Bibliographical note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Psychiatry/Primary Care/Public Health (013240500), Department of Experimental Medical Science (013210000)

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Neurosciences

Free keywords

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • voltage-dependent calcium channels
  • apoptosis
  • calcium
  • oxidative stress
  • rats


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