Stem cell transplant reverses Parkinson’s disease symptoms in rats

Nov 10, 2014

Image: Science Photo

By Neha Karl

Parkinson’s disease occurs when nerve cells in the brain that are responsible for producing dopamine, die or become impaired. Dopamine allows the body’s muscles to move smoothly, and without it, a person slowly loses control of their movements. While the current treatment options for Parkinson’s help to replenish a patient’s dopamine levels, they are often only a short-term fix and can have severe side effects, such as involuntary movements and psychiatric problems.

But in a new study, researchers from Lund University in Sweden have figured out how to use stem cells to replace the damaged nerve cells in rats – a finding that could lead to a better treatment option for Parkinson’s patients.

The team took human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and grew them into motor neurons containing dopamine. They then transplanted the neurons into brain regions that control movement in rats with Parkinson’s disease, and observed the effects over a period of five months. During this time, dopamine levels in the brain returned to normal and the mice regained muscle movement.

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Read the original study here.


4 comments on “Stem cell transplant reverses Parkinson’s disease symptoms in rats

  • 3
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    I’m no biologist but I think the reason is that the “blank” stem cells become neurons and then start producing dopamine on their own and no less importantly, regulate it. Injecting dopamine is only a palliative solution because it has to be done over and over…. and injections offer no way of regulating the amounts of dopamine in the brain over a long period of time. Injections probably cause more of a roller-coaster kind of effect.

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  • 4
    TwoReplies says:

    Pumping dopamine into the brain isn’t a solution to Parkinson’s, any more than injecting insulin is in any way a SOLUTION for diabetes.

    Besides, treating the symptoms by adding dopamine is what existing parkinson’s medicine basicly does.

    A CURE is what they’re shooting for, not mere treatment. And replacing the damaged cells with new ones (which is what the embryonic cells would become) WOULD be a large step towards a cure.

    Additionally, Parkinsons is a DEGENERATIVE disease, so it progressively gets worse, requiring more and more medication. And patients eventually build up a tolerance for said medication, resulting in risk of them overdosing (which can cause the aforementioned involuntary movements and psychiatric problems).

    So if we can replace the damaged cells, then that could halt degeration and possibly restore the lives of the afflicted.
    (Then they’d just have to deal with any problems that were caused by the parkinsons, such as joint issues or muscle problems caused from exposure to the long term affliction.)

    Now if we could get these targeted stem cells in the form of a pill, THEN we’d have another StarTrek tech become reality. :-p (Star Trek IV reference, fyi)

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