Groundbreaking stem cell treatment which 'reverses Parkinson's disease' could test on humans for first time

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Patients with Parkinson’s disease could take part in the first clinical trial of a new stem cell treatment before the end of next year, scientists have suggested.

Researchers in Japan said the new treatment has successfully restoried damaged nerve cells in monkeys.

The primates had been given a version of Parkinson’s disease but, after the treatment, showed “significant improvement”.

The condition causes the loss of dopamine neurons, which release the vital nerve transmitter chemical dopamine necessary for controlling body movement.

In the recent trial, scientists transplanted neurons derived from human stem cells into the monkeys’ brains, alleviating the disease.

The researchers now hope to start looking for suitable patients within the next 15 months.

Professor Jun Takahashi, a Parkinson’s neurosurgeon from Kyoto University, said: “This study is our answer to bring iPS cells [the laboratory-made stem cells] to clinical settings.”

A key finding from the research, published in the journal Nature, was that no tumours had appeared in the monkey’s brains – a recognised hazard of experimental stem cell therapies.

British expert Dr Tilo Kunath, a Parkinson’s UK-funded researcher at the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This is extremely promising research demonstrating that a safe and highly effective cell therapy for Parkinson’s can be produced in the lab.

“Such a therapy has the potential to reverse the symptoms of Parkinson’s in patients by restoring their dopamine-producing neurons. The next stage will be to test these therapies in a first-in-human clinical trial.

“As a side-note, the fact that the researchers have used induced pluripotent stem cells instead of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) means that this therapy can be used in any country worldwide.

“Some countries, such as Ireland and most of South America, have banned the use of hESCs as a therapy.”

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