Stem cells can heal damages caused by Parkinson’s disease, finds study

Experiments on rats indicated a major breakthrough towards developing effective treatments

 
By Priyanka Singh
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Photo courtesy: Lund University

Scientists from Lund University in Sweden have succeeded in using stem cells to create neurons that produce dopamine, the chemical which controls mood and movement in people. This may prove to be a major breakthrough in developing effective treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is caused by the loss of nerve cells in the brain that produce the chemical dopamine. Though there is no cure, brain stimulation and medication can help ease symptoms.

In experiments on rats, the scientists simulated Parkinson's by killing dopamine-producing neurons on one side of the rats’ brains. They then converted human embryonic stem cells into neurons that produced dopamine and injected them into the rats' brains. Evidence showed that the damage was reversed.

“This study shows that we can now produce fully functioning dopamine neurons from stem cells. These cells have the same ability as the brain’s normal dopamine cells to not only reach but also to connect to their target area over longer distances.

This has been our goal for some time, and the next step is to produce the same cells under the necessary regulations for human use,” says Malin Parmar, who led the study conducted at Lund University and at MIRCen in Paris.

There have been no human clinical trials of these stem-cell-derived neurons yet, but the researchers said they could be ready for testing in the next three years.
 
Director of research and development at charitable organisation Parkinson's UK, Arthur Roach, was quoted by BBC as saying, "This study could be a stride towards clinical trials in people with Parkinson's but there are still many questions that need to be answered before this development can be tested in people with the condition."

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