Replacement brain cells offer hope for Parkinson’s treatment

A colony of iPSCs from a Parkinson’s patient (left) and dopaminergic neurons made from these iPSCs (right) to model PD. (Image credit: Jeanne Loring)

A new study that used adult blood stem cells to create replacement brain nerve cells appears to help rats with Parkinson’s.

In Parkinson’s, the disease attacks brain nerve cells that produce a chemical called dopamine. The lack of dopamine produces a variety of symptoms including physical tremors, depression, anxiety, insomnia and memory problems. There is no cure and while there are some effective treatments they tend to wear off over time.

In this study, researchers at Arizona State University took blood cells from humans and, using the iPSC method, changed those into dopamine-producing neurons. They then cultured those cells in the lab before implanting them in the brains of rats which had Parkinson’s-like symptoms.

They found that rats given cells that had been cultured in the lab for 17 days survived in greater numbers and seemed to be better at growing new connections in their brains, compared to rats given cells that had been cultured for 24 or 37 days.

In addition, those rats given larger doses of the cells experienced a complete reversal of their symptoms, compared to rats given smaller doses.

In a news release, study co-author Dr. Jeffrey Kordower, said: “We cannot be more excited by the opportunity to help individuals who suffer from [a] genetic form of Parkinson’s disease, but the lessons learned from this trial will also directly impact patients who suffer from sporadic, or non-genetic forms of this disease.”

The study, published in the journal npj Regenerative Medicine, says this approach might also help people suffering from other neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s disease.

One thought on “Replacement brain cells offer hope for Parkinson’s treatment

  1. Current clinical study by using adult blood cells from humans to produce dopamine producing culture cells in lab with iPSC technology. The cultured cells were implanted in the brain of rat with Parkinson’s-like symptoms. Results showed that cultured cells grew in lab at 17 days had greater survive rate and developed new connections in the brain in compared to the rats with implanted cells growing for 24 or 37 days. This observation supported that maturation of stem cells require many stages of growth and differentiation. Each stage of maturation, progenitors response to different specific growth factor and switch on the gene for expression. Therefore, cultured of cells in day 17 response to specific growth factor and turn on the gene to produce dopamine whereas cultured of cells grew in 24 or 37 days required other specific growth factor to proceed next stage of maturation. The lack of specific growth factor caused the cells becoming growth arrest. Thus, immature and mature cells loss their abilities to develop new nerve cells and consistently produce dopamine. It is important to note that, high proportion of undefined cells are most likely to be transformed cells. Engrafment of human tumor cells into animals is not easily be done. The animal model must first be developed in state of immune deficiency before successfully implanting the tumor for growth. Evidence proved that engrafment of tumor in animals require high population of tumor cells to evolve and adapt into new environment. They also require to encounter the host immunity before successfully growing in animal model. Hence, careful consideration of each step of research investigation is essential to look after the health and well being of patients as a whole.

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