Stem Cells To Treat Parkinson’s Disease

While adult stem cells have long been used to treat a handful of blood and immune disorders, the excitement has centered on two more versatile varieties: embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and  induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), both of which can be transformed into any cell type in the body.
The New England Journal of Medicine published the first case report from a study using custom-grown stem cells to treat Parkinson’s disease in humans. The debilitating condition, which affects 10 million people worldwide, primarily results from the loss of neurons that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. Existing treatments have had limited success. Stem cell researchers aim to replace dying neurons with healthy ones grown in the lab. The neurosurgeon Jeffrey Schweitzer at Massachusetts General Hospital and neurobiologist Kwang-Soo Kim at McLean Hospital — used what are known as autologous iPSCs. These are stem cells generated from the recipient’s own mature cells, which greatly reduces the likelihood that immunosuppressants will be needed to prevent rejection. The team collected skin cells from a 69-year-old man and reprogrammed them into iPSCs. They then guided the stem cells to take on the characteristics of dopaminergic neurons, which they implanted into the patient’s putamen, a brain region implicated in Parkinson’s. Over a 24-month period, PET scans showed evidence that the new cells were functional. The man’s motor symptoms and quality-of-life scores improved, while his daily medication requirement decreased. He experienced no side effects or complications.
Dopaminergic neurons can be derived from induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs
This represents a milestone in ‘personalized medicine’ for Parkinson’s,” Kim wrote in a statement. It also represented a milestone for the patient — George “Doc” Lopez, a physician-turned-medical equipment entrepreneur, whose financial contributions to Kim’s research helped make the surgery possible.

Source: https://www.discovermagazine.com/

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