Scientists have successfully treated Parkinson’s disease in mice and rats, according to a new study reported in the journal Nature.
Stem cells obtained from human embryos were converted into nerve cells that produced dopamine, the very chemical deficient in Parkinson’s patients. The nerve cells were then transplanted to the brains of mice and rats, and symptoms of the disease gradually disappeared in the animals, according to researchers.
“We see a real opportunity to develop this into an actual cell therapy for patients,” said Lorenz Studer, study author and stem-cell biologist at Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in New York. “It is now more of an engineering problem” than a scientific one, he said.
Until now, using human cells in mice was not successful and triggered the development of tumor-like structures. In previous research, two growth factor proteins were added to the stem cells. In the most recent study, according to Dr. Studer, a third substance was added that made the process work, and without the tumor-like growths.