Stem cells could be used to restore the brain cells whose death causes Parkinson’s disease, says scientist at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Parkinson’s disease results in slow movement and involuntary shaking of the body parts. This is due to deficiency of dopamine, a chemical that gives messages to the brain.
The experiment was carried out on mice and humans. Four genes were mixed with certain molecules that were reprogrammed and seen under a microscope. It was observed that human neurons were grown in a dish and similarly happened with brain cells of mice. “The new thing in this study is that they used programming to convert an astrocyte into a neuron that is functional in people”, said Ernest Arenas, the lead researcher. “It’s the absolute very first prototype of this type of strategy and we are unaware of the problems that we might face while developing a cure in future. The focus was on demonstrating it’s possible”, he added.
There is no treatment for Parkinson’s disease as it is neurodegenerative that has affected 10 million people along with famous actor Michael J. Fox. Instead of replacing the missing dopamine scientist have tried to replace the entire dopamine neurons. Scientists are trying this experiment since the late 1980s. In their first approach, scientists obtained dopamine neurons from the first-trimester aborted fetuses and implanted into the patients’ brain. This experiment caused a serious dyskinesia in about 20 percent of the patients, Beck said.
The Karolinska lab is making the morphed cell technique safer and effective by generating the viruses that give out reprogramming molecules only to astrocytes. “We are exposed to collaborations” aimed at human studies, Arenas said.
“This study is a future work of research showing that mouse astrocytes could be converted into dopamine neurons. Now we have put a step forward and planned to move the cells form mouse to human”, said Patrick Lewis, an associate professor of cellular and molecular neuroscience at the University of Reading.