Medical

Stem cells to be transplanted into brains of Parkinson's patients in world-first trials

Stem cells to be transplanted ...
Scientists at Kyoto University are commencing trials on Parkinson's patients using induced pluripotent stem cells
Scientists at Kyoto University are commencing trials on Parkinson's patients using induced pluripotent stem cells
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Scientists at Kyoto University are commencing trials on Parkinson's patients using induced pluripotent stem cells
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Scientists at Kyoto University are commencing trials on Parkinson's patients using induced pluripotent stem cells
Dopaminergic neurons derived from human iPS cell
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Dopaminergic neurons derived from human iPS cell
Parkinson's patients taking part in new trials will have a 12-mm (0.5-in) hole drilled through their skull and five million iPSC-derived dopaminergic progenitors transplanted into their brains with a specialized device
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Parkinson's patients taking part in new trials will have a 12-mm (0.5-in) hole drilled through their skull and five million iPSC-derived dopaminergic progenitors transplanted into their brains with a specialized device

The deterioration of motor skills in Parkinson's patients is driven by the decline of dopamine production, but researchers in Japan are making exciting progress on a way to potentially arrest the slide. Following promising experiments on monkeys last year, scientists at Kyoto University are now preparing to begin transplanting reprogrammed stem cells into human brains as part of a first-of-a-kind clinical trial.

Japanese scientists have been at the vanguard of stem cell research since the turn of the century. In 2006, researcher Shinya Yamanaka found that mature cells could be harvested from body tissues and infected with a virus as a way of returning them to their immature state.

Once there, these induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) can be developed into any cell in the body. This breakthrough earned Yamanaka a Nobel Prize in 2012, but really the work is just beginning in terms of what they could mean for regenerative medicine. Scientists are exploring how they could be used to restore vision, repair damaged hearts and kill brain tumors, among other possibilities.

When it comes to Parkinson's, the hope is that iPSCs can be coaxed into what are known as dopaminergic progenitors, neurons that then generate the dopamine neurotransmitter. And trials last year at Kyoto University returned some promising results, with iSPC-derived neurons transplanted into diseased monkey brains resulting in significant improvements over a two-year period.

Parkinson's patients taking part in new trials will have a 12-mm (0.5-in) hole drilled through their skull and five million iPSC-derived dopaminergic progenitors transplanted into their brains with a specialized device
Parkinson's patients taking part in new trials will have a 12-mm (0.5-in) hole drilled through their skull and five million iPSC-derived dopaminergic progenitors transplanted into their brains with a specialized device

Those same researchers have now gained approval from Japanese authorities to move ahead with human trials. Seven participants with Parkinson's disease are taking part, and will have a 12-mm (0.5-in) hole drilled through their skull and five million iPSC-derived dopaminergic progenitors transplanted into their brains with a specialized device.

The hope is that following the transplant, the dopaminergic progenitors will become dopaminergic neurons, but because the cells are generated from a third-party's blood there is a chance they will be rejected by the patient's immune system. To counter that, the patients will also be treated with a drug called tacrolimus to dampen their immune response and give the cells the best chance of success.

The trials kick off on August 1 and the scientists will be looking to evaluate both the safety and efficacy of the transplanted cells, and of using tacrolimus to suppress the immune response. Patients will be observed for two years following the transplantation.

Source: Kyoto University

7 comments
blitherer
They did this 30 years ago on Cassius Clay.
MJRydsFast
The source of stem cells is rarely if ever mentioned in these articles. Are they from multiple sources or humans and if the latter, how? Cadavers? Donations? Thanks.
BrianK56
Please keep us updated on this program. If this is successful it could be a game changer. Hopefully in time the stem cells can be harvested from the patient so that the rejection is not an issue.
Edward Vix
Not at all clear why they wouldn't use cells from the actual patient, that would avoid rejection problems altogether.
EZ
Since this method does not stop the formation of P. D., who's to say it won't come back after this process is successful?
M-jRaichyk
For anyone wanting to see a full range of options in stem cell clinical practice, there's a video series (stemcelldocuseries dotcom) just starting up, including the use and banking of your own stem cells derived from your fat cells... imagine that and wonder why the current P.D. situation is 'choosing' to threaten the patient's rejection of the stem cells, consequently necessitating the use and commercialization of another 'drug' to mess with your immune system... best as always....
liv
This isn't a world first trial! A team from Australia have been working on the same study for nearly 2 years and have successfully implanted the stem cells into many trial patients.