Japanese researchers report promising results from an experimental therapy for Parkinson’s disease that involves implanting neurons made from ‘reprogrammed’ stem cells into the brain. A trial conducted in monkeys with a version of the disease showed that the treatment improved their symptoms and seemed to be safe, according to a report published on 30 August in Nature.
The study’s key finding — that the implanted cells survived in the brain for at least two years without causing any dangerous effects in the body — provides a major boost to researchers’ hopes of testing stem-cell treatments for Parkinson’s in humans, say scientists.
Jun Takahashi, a stem-cell scientist at Kyoto University in Japan who led the study, says that his team plans to begin transplanting neurons made from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into people with Parkinson’s in clinical trials soon.
Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative condition caused by the death of cells called dopaminergic neurons, which make a neurotransmitter called dopamine in certain areas of the brain.
Takahashi’s team found no sign that the transplanted cells had developed into tumours — a key concern with treatments that involve pluripotent cells — or that they evoked an immune response that couldn’t be controlled with immune-suppressing drugs.
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