Study shows human stem cells restore mobility in Parkinson’s monkeys – Borneo Bulletin Online

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| Marlowe Hood |

PARIS (AFP) Lab monkeys with Parkinsons symptoms regained significant mobility after neurons made from human stem cells were inserted into their brains, researchers reported Wednesday in a study hailed as groundbreaking.

The promising results were presented as the last step before human clinical trials, perhaps as early as next year, the studys senior author, Jun Takahashi, a professor at Kyoto University, told AFP.

Parkinsons is a degenerative disease that erodes motor functions. Typical symptoms include shaking, rigidity and difficulty walking. In advanced stages, depression, anxiety and dementia are also common.

Worldwide, about 10 million people are afflicted with the disease, according to the Parkinsons Disease Foundation.

Earlier experiments had shown improvements in patients treated with stem cells taken from human foetal tissue and likewise coaxed into the dopamine-producing brain cells that are attacked by Parkinsons.

Dopamine is a naturally occurring chemical that plays several key roles in the brain and body.

But the use of foetal tissue is fraught with practical and ethical problems.

So Takahashi and his colleagues, in a medical first, substituted so-called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which can be easily made from human skin or blood. Within a year, some monkeys who had could barely stand up gradually recovered mobility.

They became more active, moving more rapidly and more smoothly, Takahashi said by email. Animals that had taken to just sitting start walking around in the cage.

These findings are strong evidence that human iPSC-derived dopaminergic neurons can be clinically applicable to treat Parkinsons patients, he said.

Experts not involved in the research described the results as encouraging.

The treatment, if proven viable, has the potential to reverse Parkinsons by replacing the dopamine cells that have been lost a groundbreaking feat, said David Dexter, deputy research director at Parkinsons UK.

Not only did the new cells survive but they also integrated with the existing neuronal network, he said.

Neurons made from foetal tissue grafted into brains have been known to survive for more than a decade, and the researchers said they expected those derived from iPSCs to last just as long.

Tilo Kunath, Parkinsons Senior Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, said the outcome was extremely promising, and highlighted the advantage of avoiding stem cells extracted from human foetal tissue.

It means that this therapy can be used in any country worldwide, including Ireland and most of South America, where medical use of human embryonic stem cells is banned.

The results, reported in the journal Nature, were not the same for the dozen monkeys in the experiment, each of which received donor neurons from a different person.

Some were made with cells from healthy donors, while others were made from Parkinsons disease patients, said lead author Tetsuhiro Kikuchi, also from Kyoto University.

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Study shows human stem cells restore mobility in Parkinson's monkeys - Borneo Bulletin Online

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