The Buck Institute for Age Research scientists human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs)-derived neurons into rats that had mid-brain injury similar to that found in human Parkinson’s disease (PD).
“These cells are reprogrammed from existing cells and represent a promising unlimited source for generating patient-specific cells for biomedical research and personalized medicine,” said Xianmin Zeng, who is lead author of the study. “Human iPSCs may provide an end-run around immuno-rejection issues surrounding the use of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) to treat disease,” said Zeng. “They may also solve bioethical issues surrounding hESCs.”
The study used human iPSCs that were derived from skin and blood cells and coaxed them to become dopamine-producing neurons. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced in the mid-brain which facilitates many critical functions, including motor skills. Patients with PD lack sufficient dopamine.
When transplanted the iPSC-derived neurons became functional and the rats showed improvement in their motor skills.
The researchers claimed that this is the first time iPSC-derived cells have been shown to engraft and ameliorate behavioral deficits in animals with PD. Dopamine-producing neurons derived from hESCs have been demonstrated to survive and correct behavioral deficits in PD in the past. “Both our functional studies and genomic analyses suggest that overall iPSCs are largely similar to hESCs,” said Zeng.
Results of the research are published August 16, 2010 in the on-line edition of the journal Stem Cells.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition, which normally affects people who are aged 50 or over but younger people can get it too. One in 20 is under the age of 40.
People with Parkinson’s don’t have enough of a chemical called dopamine because some nerve cells in their brain have died.
Without dopamine people can find that their movements become slower so it takes longer to do things.The loss of nerve cells in the brain causes the symptoms of Parkinson’s to appear.
The main symptoms of Parkinson’s are tremor, rigidity and slowness of movement.As well as affecting movement, people with Parkinson’s can find that other issues, such as tiredness, pain, depression and constipation, can have an impact on their day-to-day lives.
The symptoms someone has and how quickly the condition develops will differ from one person to the next.
The symptoms can be controlled using a combination of drugs, therapies and occasionally surgery.
It’s not easy to diagnose Parkinson’s. There are no laboratory tests so it’s important that the diagnosis is given by a specialist.
The specialist will examine the person for any physical signs of Parkinson’s and take a detailed history of the symptoms they’re experiencing. Find out more in our information sheet on diagnosis and scans.
There’s currently no cure for Parkinson’s and we don’t yet know why people get the condition.
Parkinson’s doesn’t directly cause people to die, but symptoms do get worse over time.