Researchers describe how cell replacement therapies could treat Parkinson’s disease

Cell replacement therapy might help alleviate the motor symptoms synonymous with Parkinson’s disease in the near future, a new study has found.

Today, increasing activity of the nigrostriatal pathway of the brain with dopamine-modulating therapy is among the most common treatment for Parkinson’s. Although this form of treatment is effective, it does, however, carry long-term limitations and side effects.

In the study, researchers demonstrate the possibility of how newly developed stem cell technologies could be utilized to treat the neurodegenerative illness, while also highlighting the challenges of stem cell treatment.

“We are in desperate need of a better way of helping people with PD. It is on the increase worldwide. There is still no cure, and medications only go part way to fully treat incoordination and movement problems,” said Dr. Claire Henchcliffe, a co-author of the study.

“If successful, using stem cells as a source of transplantable dopamine-producing nerve cells could revolutionize care of the PD patient in the future. A single surgery could potentially provide a transplant that would last throughout a patient’s lifespan, reducing or altogether avoiding the need for dopamine-based medications.”

In the past, the majority of transplantation studies into the neurodegenerative disease utilized human cells from aborted embryos. The transplants, although functional, could demonstrate scientific or ethical adversities. A portion of patients saw therapeutic effects while others developed dyskinesia.

New findings in stem cell technology suggest the probability of growing unlimited amounts of dopamine-producing nerve cells for transplantation, which is on its way to clinical trial testing.

“We are moving into a very exciting era for stem cell therapy,” said Dr. Parmar.

“The first-generation cells are now being trialed and new advances in stem cell biology and genetic engineering promise even better cells and therapies in the future. There is a long road ahead in demonstrating how well stem cell-based reparative therapies will work, and much to understand about what, where, and how to deliver the cells, and to whom.”

“But the massive strides in technology over recent years make it tempting to speculate that cell replacement may play an increasing role in alleviating at least the motor symptoms, if not others, in the decades to come.”

Patrik Brundin, Ph.D., of Van Andel Research Institute, added: “This approach to brain repair in PD definitely has major potential, and the coming two decades might also see even greater advances in stem cell engineering with stem cells that are tailor-made for specific patients or patient groups.”

The study was published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease.