Results published in Cell Stem Cell from researchers based at a university in Sweden have taken a key step forward in using stem cells to replace the nerve cells lost in Parkinson’s. Stem cells are ‘unspecialised’ cells which can develop into almost any cell in the body. They are found in early embryos, foetuses, umbilical cords and also in some adult tissues.
The research team converted human embryonic stem cells into the dopamine producing nerve cells that are lost in Parkinson’s.
They then injected these new cells into the brains of a rat model of Parkinson’s in which the dopamine producing nerve cells had been damaged on one side.
Results showed that the nerve cells produced from human embryonic stem cells successfully repaired this damage. The new nerve cells were able to produce dopamine and form connections within the brain.
Arthur Roach, director of research and development at Parkinson’s UK comments:
“This important research is a key step along the way in helping us to understand how stem cells might shape future Parkinson’s treatments. There are important potential advantages of these cells over cells taken from foetuses which were used in past cell transplantation work. 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.”