Stem cells within the noses of patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease might hold the key for a cure to the disease itself. Recent research which harvested these stem cells showed that they were capable of producing an essential, and for Parkinson’s patients, lacking, chemical when injected into the brain.
Parkinson’s disease is a disease of the nervous system, characterized by diminished muscle control and speech function. The symptoms can be moderate to severe, and are often progressive (leading from slight muscle tremors to extreme shaking, and sometimes immobility). The cause for the disease is a deficiency in the brain of the chemical dopamine, which is the result of cell degeneration in the brain. According to the recent study, “Current drug therapies replace dopamine in the brain, but these often become less effective after prolonged use.”
The study was performed on mice that mimicked human Parkinson’s disease. Among other symptoms, the mice were unable to walk a straight line, instead running around in circles. Human stem cells from the noses of Parkinson’s patients were injected into the affected areas of the mice brains. According to lead researcher Alan Mackay-Sim, “when stem cells from the nose of Parkinson’s patients were cultured and injected into the damaged area the rats re-aquired the ability to run in a straight line.” This profound improvement was observed in all cases within three weeks. No negative effects, such as tumors, were observed.
The belief of the researchers is that these nasal stem cells “give rise to dopamine-producing neurons influenced by being in the environment of the brain.” Alone, the nasal stem cells do not contain dopamine, and are considered “naive”, but “they can still be influenced by the environment they are put into. In this case we transplanted them into the brain, where they were directed to give rise to dopamine producing brain cells,” according to Dr. Mackay-Sim.
Since dopamine deficiency is of primary responsibility in the development of, and progressive suffering from Parkinson’s, this is a potentially very major finding. The fact that the stem cells come directly from a patients body, instead of an embryo or other outside source, would greatly limit the risk pf the patients immune system being incompatible with the procedure as well. Parkinson’s, a chronic, debilitating, and often untreatable disease, will hopefully now have some progressive research to build upon.
Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Langan, Jeannette. Mackay-Sim, Alan. Stem Cells news release. June 2008.