Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurological condition that affects a part of the brain known as the substantia nigra. In this region, it kills the brain cells responsible for producing dopamine, an important neurotransmitter. While genetic and environmental factors are believed to play a role in the development of the disease, its precise cause remains unknown.
While there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there are medications available to help treat symptoms. Unfortunately, these drugs aren’t always effective. Researchers, including those at Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) are therefore looking into the efficacy of a potential new treatment, stem cell therapy, for the condition.
Working in tandem with the Neuroregeneration Research Institute at McLean Hospital, Harvard researchers have generated dopamine-producing brain cells from skin cells retrieved from patients with PD. The cells were programmed into induced pluripotent stem cells, then encouraged to differentiate into neurons. By creating this model, researchers will have a powerful means of performing PD research outside of the body. For instance, the lab has already begun to identify certain compounds which could eliminate disease symptoms in cell lines derived from individuals with PD mutations.
Performing Brain Repair
Harvard scientists are also investigating ways to replace neurons that have been damaged by PD and other nervous system disorders, including ALS. Not only has their research enabled them to study abnormalities caused by protein misfolding in stem-cell-derived neurons from people with PD, but they have also been able to study ways in which the abnormalities could be reversed via genome editing or using drug-like molecules. Additionally, they have been focusing on the molecular changes that promote nerve cell development during childhood and adulthood, which could aid in brain repair efforts.
While we have yet to see a cure for PD, stem cells have already played a pivotal role in helping scientists uncover more information about the disease. With their enormous potential in research applications, stem cells are an invaluable key player in the realm of regenerative medicine and the future of healthcare as a whole.
This post was written by a medical professional at Stemedix Inc. At Stemedix we provide access to Regenerative Medicine for TBI, also known as stem cell therapy for TBI. Regenerative medicine has the natural potential to help improve symptoms sometimes lost from the progression of many conditions.