Can Millions of Stem Injected Into Brain Cells Treat Parkinson’s Disease?
The study published in Stem Cell Reports, scientists at Kyoto University in Japan say they’ve developed a stem cell technique that might one day lead to treatments for Parkinson’s disease.
From the first trial, Scientists were able to successfully implanted nerve stem cells into the brain of a monkey, targeting the area destroyed by Parkison’s disease.
Previous studies showed that when scientists tried to inject neurons into rat brains, the rats’ immune systems rejected the cells. “But [the immune system] of rodents is not well known and is different from that of primates,” explained Dr. Jun Takahashi, a professor in the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application at Kyoto University, in an interview with Healthline.
The next step is to develop neuron transplants for humans.
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“[The] basic structure of the MHC is similar between humans and monkeys,” said Takahashi, suggesting that the monkey research will translate well to humans.
Neuron transplants could be used to treat any number of diseases that damage the brain, including Parkinson’s. In Parkinson’s disease, neurons that produce a substance called dopamine start dying off. Dopamine is responsible for a large number of functions in the brain, including the ability to move one’s muscles. As these neurons die, people with Parkinson’s develop tremors and partial paralysis.
A new experimental therapy for Parkinson’s disease that involves injecting millions of special stem cells into the brain of patients with the condition is currently being tested in a clinical trial.
The study, which began in October, is conducted by researchers at Kyoto University in Japan. So far, researchers have started to treat one man in his 50s, according to AFP.
Although previous studies have tested stem cell therapies for Parkinson’s, the new study is the first to use so-called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs. These are “adult” cells (like blood or skin cells, as opposed to embryonic cells) that have been reprogrammed so that they resemble cells in early development, and they have the potential to form any cell type in the body. The researchers used iPSCs to create “dopaminergic progenitor” cells.
In Parkinson’s disease patients, the brain cells that produce dopamine die off, leading to symptoms such as tremors and difficulty with walking, movement and coordination. [ Know About the Brain]
In the new trial, the researchers hope to show that these transplanted stem cells will help replace the lost dopamine-producing cells and restore dopamine production, according to The Michael J. Fox Foundation.
For the treatment, the researchers injected 2.4 million stem cells into the left side of the man’s brain, in an operation that took 3 hours, according to AFP. The patient will now be monitored for side effects, and if no problems occur, the researchers will inject another 2.4 million stem cells into the right side of his brain.
The researchers plan to enroll a total of seven patients in the trial and to track the patients for two years.
The iPSCs were derived from donors, so the patients will need to take drugs to suppress their immune system to prevent rejection of the transplanted cells, according to Kyoto University.