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Damage to brain caused by Parkinson’s disease can be ‘healed’ with stem cells

November 11, 2014

A new study conducted by scientists in Sweden has found that by using stem cells they are able to ‘heal’ Parkinson’s disease.

The disease is caused by a decline in the number of nerve cells in the brain that produce the chemical dopamine, which helps to control mood and movement.

In the study, conducted by researchers at Lund University, the dopamine-producing neurons on one side of the rats’ brains were killed off to simulate the disease.

They were then injected with human adult embryonic stem cells, which targeted the neurons that produced dopamine. The scientists found evidence that the damage was reversed in the rats, but that the condition was not completely cured.

There have been no clinical trials of stem-cell-derived neurons to date, but the researchers said they could be ready for extensive testing by 2017.

Malin Parmar, associate professor of developmental and regenerative neurobiology at Lund University, said: “It’s a huge breakthrough in the field and a stepping stone towards clinical trials.”

Similar studies have been conducted in the past with foetal embryonic cells, which had mixed results. However, the new approach using adult cells has been hailed as a step forward by some charities.

Arthur Roach, Parkinson’s UK’s director of research and development, said: “This important research is a key step along the way in helping us to understand how stem cells might shape future Parkinson’s treatments.

“There are important potential advantages of these cells over the foetal-derived cells used in past cell transplantation work.

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