Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook



 

China plans embryonic stem cell trials for Parkinson's and blindness

05 June 2017

By Emma Lamb

Appeared in BioNews 903

Two teams of doctors in China are to administer embryonic stem cell therapy from fertilised human embryos to treat different degenerative diseases.

One trial testing ESC therapy in Parkinson's disease will be the first clinical trial of human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) in China, as well as the first trial in the world to examine ESCs for the treatment of Parkinson's, according to a report in Nature News. Both studies will be led by stem cell specialist Dr Qi Zhou at the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University.

The only previous study of this type started in Australia last year: patients with the degenerative disease are being treated with cells derived from parthenogenetic embryos. These stem cells were harvested from unfertilised eggs induced into embryonic development, sidestepping many of the ethical issues with using viable embryos. ESCs are pluripotent stem cells taken from the inner cell mass of human embryos and have the potential to develop into any of the 200-plus specialised cell types in the adult body.

In Parkinson's disease, a specialised type of brain cell that produces the neurotransmitter dopamine are lost. Dr Zhou's team will inject four million immature cells derived from ESCs into the striatum area of patients' brains with the aim of reducing symptoms. This follows an unpublished four-year study led by Dr Zhou which showed promising results in 15 monkeys.

A second team will treat patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), in which vision is compromised by the loss of pigmented retinal epithelia in the eye. Building on pre-clinical trials carried out in South Korea and the US, ESC-derived retinal epithelial cells will be injected into the retinas of AMD patients in a bid to stop the disease progressing.

Using ESCs in treatment is controversial on ethical grounds, as well as fears that they could cause tumours. Some scientists are concerned that the Parkinson's patients are being injected with cells that may not become the desired type of neurone. 'Not knowing what the cells will become is troubling.' said Dr Jeanne Loring at the Scripps Research Institute, California.  However, pre-clinical work for the Australian trial found that 97 percent of the ESC-derived precursor cells developed into dopaminergic neurons.

In 2015, China announced new regulations for stem cell therapies aiming both to enable legitimate human trials, and curb administration of unapproved treatments. Zhou's clinical trials will be fully compliant, using government-certified ESC lines and the clinicians have been granted approval by a central government committee for their use.

Committee member Dr Pei Xuetao, a stem-cell scientist at the Beijing Institute of Transfusion Medicine, called the study a 'major new direction for China'. Other groups of scientists are already planning trials for the testing of ESC therapy for other targeted treatments, such as encouraging growth and repair following spinal cord injuries.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Science World Report | 02 June 2017
 
GenomeWeb | 01 June 2017
 
Scientific American | 31 May 2017
 
Nature | 31 May 2017
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

20 November 2017 - by Jenny Sharpe 
Preliminary results from two early stage clinical trials suggest that embryonic stem cells could be used to treat patients with dry age-related macular degeneration...
04 September 2017 - by Caroline Casey 
Neurons derived from human stem cells have successfully been used to treat and relieve symptoms of Parkinson's disease in a primate animal model...
10 July 2017 - by Lea Goetz 
International experts are calling for global action on unproven and potentially dangerous stem cell therapies and their misleading marketing to the public...

20 March 2017 - by Paul Waldron 
In two different attempts to treat degenerative eye diseases with stem cells, three patients have been blinded, while disease progression has been stopped in a separate patient...
13 January 2017 - by Ayala Ochert 
Scientists have partially reversed blindness in mice using lab-grown retinas made from skin cells...
21 November 2016 - by Anneesa Amjad 
Chinese scientists have injected CRISPR/Cas9 gene-edited cells into a human for the first time...
10 November 2014 - by Rhys Baker 
Researchers have reversed the effects of Parkinson's disease in rats, using human embryonic stem cells...

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust

CROSSING FRONTIERS

Public Conference
London
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Sue Avery

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Dr Andy Greenfield

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Henry Malter

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

Philippa Taylor

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross

Sandy Starr


BOOK HERE

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation