Swedish and French researchers have restored motor function in rats suffering from Parkinson’s disease by transplanting neurons made from human embryonic stem cells into their brains.
The transplanted cells were able to restore dopamine levels back to normal within five months and established the correct pattern of long-distance connections in the brains of the rats.
Parkinson’s disease is an incurable movement disorder which affects millions of people around the world but current treatment options can cause severe side effects and lose effectiveness over time.
The study, published in the journal Stem Cell, paves the way for the use of cell replacement therapy in human clinical trials.
“Our study represents an important milestone in the preclinical assessment of hESC-derived dopamine neurons and provides essential support for their usefulness in treating Parkinson’s disease,” says Malin Parmar of Lund University.
Parkinson’s disease is caused, in part, by the death of neurons which release a brain chemical called dopamine, leading to the progressive loss of control over dexterity and the speed of movement.
In a related article published in the same journal, Roger Barker of Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the University of Cambridge laid out the roadmap for taking stem-cell-derived dopamine neurons to the clinic for treating Parkinson’s disease.
“This involves understanding the history of the whole field of cell-based therapies for Parkinson’s disease and some of the mistakes that have happened,” he says.
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