In an effort to improve Parkinson’s disease symptoms, U.S. medical scientists claim that brain cells derived from neural stem cells can help.
A progressive loss of movement control characterizes the disease. In the study, which was conducted on mice, scientists discovered that the rodent’s brain continued to function normally rather than display the traits of Parkinson’s.
“We are very cautious but to us, it’s an indication that stem cells have promise for Parkinson’s disease,” says Dr. Cesario, neuroscientist at the Medical College of Georgia also the corresponding author of the study.
A neurotoxin was administered to destroy neurons that create dopamine, a key neurotransmitter in regards to movement control. The transplants were performed soon after says Dr. Cesario. A patient receiving treatment early in the disease process would be the most accurate duplication of the experiment in humans.
The researchers noted that the animals that received conventional treatment did not recover while those that received transplants regained control of their movement. Other animals gained partial recovery when given neurotrophic factors, called stem cell factors.
The stem cell factor protected cells in a dose-dependent fashion.
“The more stem cell factor, the better the protection,” Cesario says
Protection was further amplified when the cells were co-cultured with stem cells. Neuro-protection was significantly reduced when an antibody was used to block the stem cell factor.
“This again shows a combination of factors at work. It’s a synergistic effect,” says Cesario.
Even before symptoms start to show, Parkinson’s disease does a lot of damage to dopaminergic cells. The loss of these cells makes it difficult for individuals to move and, once they do move, it is abnormal and they can’t control the movement. Tremors are a common example.
A synthetic dopamine called L-dopa is the normal existing treatment. It tends to minimize symptoms for three to five years. Doses are increased since the drug becomes less effective as the disease progresses. The crescendo dosing can produce more dyskinesia (loss of controlled movement).
The Journal of Neuroscience (ANI) has published the research in its latest issue.