Potential "breakthrough" in stem cell treatment for Parkinson's
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden say they've found a way to turn embryonic stem cells into dopamine cells that can be transplanted into a brain. And that, they say, may lead to treatments that could slow or stop the progression of Parkinson's disease.
In the study, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, researchers first killed the dopamine cells in one part of a rat's brain to produce a Parkinson’s model. Parkinson’s is caused when the cells that produce dopamine, a chemical regulating movement, gradually decline. The researchers then created the dopamine cells from embryonic stem cells and transplanted them into the animal's brain. They found that the transplanted dopamine cells were successful in both surviving long-term and restoring normal dopamine production in the rat.
The findings were also significant in that the axons of the new dopamine cells showed the same qualities of dopamine cells in humans.
Embryonic stem cells have been the subject of research in the past, but have proved difficult to work with. Once harvested, stem cells have the potential to become a wide range of other cells found in the body - which are not always the ones scientists are trying to target.
The researchers said they hope to begin human clinical trials in three years.