Page URL:

Stem cell therapy for Parkinson's restores dopamine in rats

10 November 2014
Appeared in BioNews 779

Researchers have reversed the effects of Parkinson's disease in rats, by using human embryonic stem cells.

Parkinson's disease is caused by the gradual loss of nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine, a chemical that assists in controlling movement and mood. There is no cure, although medication and deep-brain stimulation can alleviate symptoms in some patients.

Lead researcher Professor Malin Parmar told the BBC: 'It's a huge breakthrough in the field [and] a stepping stone towards clinical trials.'

To create a model of Parkinson's in rats, the research team from Lund University in Sweden destroyed the dopamine-producing cells in one part of the rat's brain. They then transplanted dopamine cells made from human embryonic stem cells into the rats' brains. Once complete, the researchers found the transplanted cells behaved like natural, native dopamine cells. As a result, the rats regained normal motor function.

Professor Parmar said: '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.'

Arthur Roach, the head of research and development at the charity Parkinson's UK hailed the study as an important step in 'helping us to understand how stem cells might shape future Parkinson's treatments'. However, Roach cautions that using this technique in humans is still a long way off: '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.'

The Lund team expect human clinical trials to begin within three years.

The study was published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

4 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...
5 June 2017 - by Emma Lamb 
Two teams of doctors in China are to administer embryonic stem cell therapy from fertilised human embryos to treat different degenerative diseases...
26 May 2015 - by Kirsty Oswald 
Researchers have found a way to directly convert blood cells into nerve cells of both the central and peripheral nervous system....
1 December 2014 - by Siobhan Chan 
Nerve cells that react to pain and cold in the same way as human neurons have been formed in the lab, scientists report...
20 October 2014 - by Dr Victoria Burchell 
A drug can reverse the effects of two Parkinson's disease-causing mutations in fruit flies, a study reports...
15 September 2014 - by Rhys Baker 
Human pluripotent stem cells have been 'reset' to resemble embryonic stem cells at the earliest developmental state yet achieved...
10 January 2014 - by Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd 
Patients in a clinical trial to treat Parkinson's disease with a form of gene therapy have showed signs of significant improvements in their motor-function, according to a report published in the Lancet...
25 March 2013 - by Helen Brooks 
An experimental approach to treating Parkinson's disease may need to be reconsidered following evidence suggesting that it may make patients worse...
to add a Comment.

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

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.