The new experimental therapy for Parkinson's disease which involves injecting millions of specialized stem cells into the brains of patients with conditions currently being tested in clinical trials.
The study, which began in October, was carried out by researchers at Kyoto University in Japan. So far, researchers have begun treating a man in his 50s, according to AFP.
Although previous studies have tested stem cell therapy for Parkinson's, new studies are the first to use so-called pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs. These are "adult" cells (such as blood cells or skin cells, as opposed to embryonic cells) that have been reprogrammed to resemble cells in early development, and they have the potential to form any cell type in the body.
For this study, researchers used iPSCs to make "dopaminergic progenitor" cells, or cells that give rise to brain cells that produce dopamine, a brain chemical needed to control muscle movement. In patients with Parkinson's disease, brain cells that produce dopamine die, causing symptoms such as tremors and difficulties with walking, movement and coordination. [10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Brain]
In the new experiment, the researchers hope to show that transplanted stem cells will help replace lost dopamine-producing cells and restore dopamine production, according to The Michael J. Fox Foundation.
For treatment, the researchers injected 2.4 million stem cells into the left side of the man's brain, in an operation that took 3 hours, according to AFP. Patients will now be monitored for side effects, and if no problems occur, the researchers will inject 2.4 million more stem cells into the right side of the brain.
The researchers plan to register a total of seven patients at the trial and to track patients for two years.
The iPSCs come from donors, so patients will need to take drugs to suppress their immune systems to prevent the rejection of transplanted cells, according to Kyoto University.
Initially published on Direct Science.