Neurturin is a GDNF homolog (42), which is also expressed in the developing mid-brain (43). It has been demonstrated to exert potent trophic effects on dopaminergic neurons in vitro and in vivo (43). When injected into the substantia nigra of 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA)-lesioned rats, neurturin significantly protected dopaminergic nigral cells, resulting in greater cell survival. These results were nearly identical to the effects of GDNF (43,44). Protective results have also been noted in rats treated with striatal neurturin injections preceding lesioning (44). Both studies correlated these results with behavioral improvements. Other members of this gene family have also been identified and tested for dopaminergic neuroprotection (45-47). It is possible that these agents may also be considered for future clinical therapies. Like GDNF, gene therapy may represent the most effective means of delivery for these agents. Specific studies are examined in the section "Gene Therapy."
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