Grafts of human parthenogenetic stem cell-derived neural stem cells (hpNSCs) promote Parkinson's recovery in primates
Parkinson's disease is primarily characterised by a loss of dopaminergic neurons in the basal ganglia region of the brain. While treatments like Levodopa can provide a new supply of dopamine, they come with significant side effects and fail to halt disease progression. Cell therapy is a promising alternative albeit slow moving; delivering targeted treatment and potentially preventing further neuronal loss at the same time.
"Previous clinical studies have shown that grafted fetal neural tissue can achieve considerable biochemical and clinical improvements in PD, however the source of fetal tissue is limited and may sometimes be ethically controversial. Human parthenogenetic stem cells offer a good alternative because they can be derived without destroying potentially viable human embryos and can be used to generate an unlimited supply of neural cells for transplantation"
Parthenogenetic stem cells
Parthenogenesis is a process in which egg cells are coaxed to divide into a stem cell population, without having undergone fertilisation. Previous research using hpNSCs, which have similar properties to embryonic stem cells, has indicated they can be differentiated into neural stem cell types, and the latest study attempted to transplant these neural stem cells into non-human primates with severe Parkinson's symptoms.
What did they find?
Transplantations and intra-cerebral injection of these cells produced improved behaviour, increased dopamine production, and beneficial gene expression compared to control animals. They were also well tolerated and appeared to be safe, which was a primary concern of the study. Some stem cell lines appear to be vulnerable to tumour formation, but no such activity was noted in this study. The period of study was only 12 months, and the researchers note that the animals may well demonstrate greater improvement in a longer period of time.
"The results of this and other studies support the clinical translation of hpNSCs and the approval of the world's first pluripotent stem cell-based therapy for treating Parkinson's disease. The study showed evidence of safety in using these cells, which is an improvement upon previous stem cell therapies that have shown some lineages may result in tumor formation. A follow-up study that further assesses the clinical potential of this approach for functional improvement may prove promising in future treatments for Parkinson's disease"
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