D. Eugene Redmond, Jr., professor of psychiatry and neurosurgery at Yale, along with team members from Yale, Harvard, the University of Colorado, and the Burnham Institute reported that monkeys with severe Parkinson’s disease were able to walk, move, eat better, and had diminished tremors after being injected with human neural stem cells.
The results are promising, but preliminary. “Not only are stem cells a potential source of replacement cells, they also seem to have a whole variety of effects that normalize other abnormalities,” Redmond said. “The human neural stem cells implanted into the primates survived, migrated, and had a functional impact. It’s an important step, but there are a number of studies that need to be done before determining if this would be of any value in clinical settings.”
Parkinson’s disease is caused by a degeneration of dopamine neurons in an area of the midbrain known as the substantia nigra, which is responsible for dopamine production. Redmond said a small number of the human neural stem cell progeny differentiated into neurons that contained tyrosine hydroxylase and dopamine transporter. Cell progeny containing these markers suggest that the microenvironment within and around the brain lesions still permits development of a dopamine phenotype by responsive progenitor cells. The stem cells also made a growth factor that has been shown to improve dopamine function.
Illustration: Photo of a new dopamine neuron after injection. The red is a progeny of the human stem cell. –Yale University.
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