Researchers are working to revive a radical treatment for Parkinson’s disease.
The treatment involves transplanting healthy brain cells to replace cells killed off by the disease. It’s an approach that was tried decades ago and then set aside after disappointing results.
During the 1980’s and 1990’s, researchers used cells taken directly from the brains of aborted fetuses to treat hundreds of Parkinson’s patients…For some patients, the transplanted fetal cells produced dramatic improvements. But rigorous studies eventually showed that many other patients were not helped. And some developed an unwelcome side effect: uncontrolled movements. So in 2003, researchers declared a moratorium on transplants for Parkinson’s.
To prevent that sort of problem, scientists…have spent the past dozen years figuring out how to turn stem cells into pure lines of dopamine cells in the lab.
Unlike the transplanted fetal cells, these cells are an exact replacement for the neurons that produce dopamine in an adult brain, “So you are confident that everything you are putting in the patient’s brain will consist of right type of cell,” says Viviane Tabar, a neurosurgeon and stem cell biologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
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