Stem cell team in Japan takes aim at Parkinson's
Reprogrammed adult stem cells in clinical trials next year
Researchers at Japan's Kyoto University plan to start clinical research on a possible treatment for Parkinson's disease, using induced pluripotent stem cells.
These iPS cells are created from mature cells — from skin or blood — that have been genetically reprogrammed to behave in an embryonic-like state. Cells with embryonic ability can develop into many different cell types and researchers have been exploring ways to use them to repair damaged tissue.
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The researchers say they have already developed a way to produce dopamine-making nerve cells, or neurons, using iPS cells and hope to test how their discovery may be put to use to lessen symptoms of Parkinson's.
They plan to start selecting patients for the clinical testing as early as the summer of 2015.
The research will involve transplanting into the brains of six patients cells that have been cultured without animal-derived substances.
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative brain illness that causes problems including tremors, rigidity and slow movements. It affects about one in every 200 people worldwide. There is no cure, but some drugs can help to control symptoms.