Scientists find the key to potentially reversing Parkinson’s disease

Posted 11 months ago by David McManus
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Scientists have made huge strides in the fight against Parkinson’s disease complications and the people they impact. [Source: Shutterstock]
Scientists have made huge strides in the fight against Parkinson’s disease complications and the people they impact. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition, with those diagnosed under the age of 50 considered ‘early-onset’ cases
  • Through an animal model, young neurons were able to be developed which can repair the neural damage that is part and parcel for people with the disease
  • Researchers from Scripps Research and Cardiff University used induced pluripotent stem cells [iPSCs] from skin cells of two people with Parkinson’s disease which were transplanted into rats with the degenerative disease

 

A new breakthrough in Parkinson’s disease research has moved scientists one step closer to a significant treatment. Researchers were able to yield significant results through transplanting the skin cells of two people with Parkinson’s disease into rats.

Clinical stem cell trials are underway to test the efficacy of different approaches to treating the disease, according to a statement from Scripps Research. However, the animal model transplant therapy is the first to utilise autologous therapy and has enamoured researchers with its potential.

Professor at the Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Scripps Research Jeanne Loring said “[the results] give us confidence that personalised therapy is feasible for Parkinson’s disease.”

Although, the process for dual transplant regenerative therapy is something which researchers described as incredibly complex, the therapy is time-sensitive in order to actually help people with Parkinson’s disease.

“When you transplant neurons derived from someone else’s cells, those cells will be rejected by the immune system, requiring the use of immunosuppressive drugs that are often not well tolerated,” Dr Loring said.

Globally, approximately 10 million people live with Parkinson’s disease, which is irreversible and will gradually and consistently worsen over time, functionally stripping people with the condition of their own autonomy as they lose more control over their own body. As a result, the new therapy is effective at intervening in the gradual development and preventing the decline in neural processing.

Researchers believe that pinpointing the necessary time for delivering cells and respective properties to people with Parkinson’s could also influence future research into treatments for Huntington’s disease, heart failure and age-related vision impairment. 

The research, published in Stem Cells and Development on June 22, 2023, is a crucial step forward for clinical trials of autologous iPSC-derived neurons in human patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Loring and co-senior author Mariah Lelos, from Cardiff University, found that younger cells were able to engage with other neurons more effectively than older cells, marking a turning point in treatments grafted for brains impacted by neural Parkinson’s-related damage.

“At this earlier time point, the cells are poised to become neurons and when they are put into the brain — they receive the signals to turn on those genes and finish their development,” said Dr Lelos.

“This allows them to make connections with the host. If they’re farther along in development, they no longer respond to those initial developmental signals,” the researcher continued.

“Knowledge of which genes are turned on in neuronal precursors that are in the optimal developmental state to treat Parkinson’s can help researchers screen cells before transplanting them into patients.”

For most of us, this sounds like science-fiction, but in the world of neuroscience, these findings signal that the world is one step closer to assisting the 90,000 people diagnosed with the disease each year, globally.