Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Yet another story about treating Parkinson's with stem cells

A neurosurgery team will next month transplant cells from aborted human fetuses into the brain of a person with Parkinson's disease. The operation breaks a decade-long international moratorium on the controversial therapy that was imposed after many patients failed to benefit and no one could work out why.
People with Parkinson's disease suffer from a degeneration of neurons that produce the neuro­transmitter dopamine, which is crucial for normal movement. This often leaves patients with severe mobility problems. Standard treatment includes the drug l-dopa, which replaces dopamine in the brain but can cause side effects. The cellular therapies aim to replace the missing neurons with dopamine-producing (dopaminergic) cells from fetal brains or with those derived from human stem cells. But the trial comes just as other sources of replacement cells derived from human stem cells are rapidly approaching the clinic. And this time, scientists want to make sure that things go better. So the teams involved in all the planned trials have formed a working group to standardize their research and clinical protocols in the hope that their results will be more easily interpretable.
The moratorium on replacement-therapy trials was introduced in 2003 because the early fetal-cell studies had produced varying results that were impossible to interpret.
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