PROMISE FOR PARKINSONS: Neural Stem Cells.

PROMISE FOR PARKINSONS: Neural Stem Cells. In Parkinsons disease, cells producing dopamine die off (for unknown reasons), resulting in tremors, rigidity and worse. Treatment consists of supplements of dopamine and surgical implantation of wires that provide electrical impulses for movement. For a decade, scientists have been trying to regrow nerve cells using stem cells, but these cells only made limited amounts of dopamine. Also, there were concerns that dopamine neurons developed from human stem cells could trigger growth of tumors.

• Recently, Lorenz Studer’s group at Memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC found the right chemical signals to coax stem cells into dopamine neurons. The neurons survived and restored activity in three animal models: mouse, rat and monkeys. The primate work was important because previous studies had shown that rodent brains required fewer working neurons to overcome symptoms.

• Dr Studer said: “We now have the right cells, but to put them into humans requires them to be produced in a specialized facility rather than a laboratory, for safety reasons. We have removed the main biological bottleneck and now it’s an engineering problem.”

Image: Derived from human embryonic stem cells, precursor neural cells grow in a lab dish and generate mature neurons (red) and glial cells (green), in the lab of University of Wisconsin-Madison stem cell researcher and neurodevelopmental biologist Su-Chun Zhang.

Ref: Dopamine neurons derived from human ES cells efficiently engraft in animal models of Parkinson’s disease. Kriks et al. doi:10.1038/nature10648

#sciencesunday ScienceSunday 

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44 Responses to PROMISE FOR PARKINSONS: Neural Stem Cells.


  1. Does this mean a treatment for Parkinson is around the corner then?

  2. mary Zeman says:


    fascinating- I have confidence the engineering process can be dealt with.


  3. Thanks, Rajini Rao  — most definitely, an important advance.  Now, finding an appropriate, secure facility…

  4. Rajini Rao says:


    Suhail Manzoor , it does seem promising to me. They will need to do human clinical trials. You heard that the first human trial that was sourced to a company was stopped for economic reasons?


    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8892403/US-drug-company-halts-worlds-first-official-human-embryonic-stem-cell-clinical-trial.html

  5. Celeste C says:


    Wow! Great progress – thc for sharing.

  6. Deeksha Tare says:


    Wow! Amazing picture and an even more amazing piece of information Rajini Rao , thanks for sharing! 🙂


    Parkinson’s is a curious disease…!


    I remember reading in the book The Tell-tale Brain that experienced Neurologists can recognize a Parkinson’s patient by just listening to his footsteps out of the room! So characteristic is their way of walking!

  7. Julie Seeder says:


    Yay for stemcells!  Love the picture, too. 

  8. Rajini Rao says:


    Deeksha Tare , I’m not surprised because the symptoms are so stereotypic. This must be because a very precise part of the brain, the substantia nigra, is destroyed by the disease.

  9. Rajini Rao says:


    Julie Ekstedt , as always, it is the picture that inspires me to write something 🙂

  10. Julie Seeder says:


    Stem cells are the only way to cure the incurable diseases, it seems.  My son is type 1 diabetic, a new pancreas would be his only cure enabling him to have a normal life…. therefore, stem cells.  If our govenment would see the importance of this, there would be a lot fewer people suffering from incurable/terminal illnesses.


  11. So Rajini Rao , given that there were going into field trials, I would assume the engineering challenges were solved. I am sure they will get this thing up and running again. Given that so many of us live so long, Parkinson has to be the thing we need to solve. Still, at the same time, I don’t really know if I like to be that old, given the way older folks get treated now a days.

  12. Deeksha Tare says:


    Tagging Cheryl Ann MacDonald, Psy’D. too.


    Hope this would be of interest to her 🙂

  13. Rajini Rao says:


    Sure, Roman Scherbakov ! The paper is a free read: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3245796/?tool=pubmed


    (FYI: the Ref in my post has a doi number that has to be pasted into PubMed to bring up the paper).

  14. Julie Seeder says:


    Quality of life… many of us take it for granted.  Cures of this calliber would give that opportunity to others that wouldn’t otherwise have it.

  15. Rajini Rao says:


    Julie Ekstedt , I was just reading about this study that may be of interest. There seems to be some progress in Type I diabetes stem cell research: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/240160.php/


    Suhail Manzoor : Is old age a blessing or a curse? There were a couple of posts circulating on G+ on old age..one with a nice image, another with a poem that made it to What’s Hot.

  16. Deeksha Tare says:


    That’s so true Julie Ekstedt !


    That is why cryopreservation of a neonate’s umbilical cord stem cells is a great way to ensure a good quality of life for the child in the future 🙂


  17. This is awesome, and I think the ability to grow neural and glial cells could have other very important implications as well,no?

  18. Rajini Rao says:


    Jeffrey J Davis , yes, for all neurodegenerative diseases, which are many (ALS, Alzheimers, etc.). Then there are studies showing that neural stem cells can go off and kill breast tumor cells in mice. That surprised me (yet to read the paper).

  19. Rajini Rao says:


    Roman Scherbakov , it’s good to have academic access to library subscriptions. But to those that do not, I would offer to send a pdf of the paper via email. Journal pay walls deter access to tax payer- funded information to the public, unfortunately.


  20. Hi Rajini Rao and thanks for the tag Deeksha Tare. I am a little late today with visiting…but read your excellent post along with the links. Sorry to hear about the funding issues in Ca. The other link on Diabetes type 1 using stem cells also seems promising (someone just ask me about this a couple of weeks ago) 


  21. Rajini Rao To avoid these journal pay walls…can’t one just go to a local university and use their computer system? (I did this many years ago when working on the dissertation, but am not sure if the same system exists @ UCSD.) Although for many easy access to a University might be problematic.

  22. Mark Herndon says:


    Very glad to see this! When I read “its now an engineering problem” I was very happy indeed. I’m glad that the rest of the world has pursued research of stem cells. Too bad the theocracy ruling the USA does not allow it.


  23. have you seen the latest spiderman movie?- cross species genetic engineering. is that possible?

  24. Rajini Rao says:


    I have not seen the movie yet, Deepa Ramasamy , although one can safely bet that there is a lot of fiction in Hollywood science 🙂 Do you have a specific example from the movie that I can address? Genes from one organism can be put into another…sometimes they can function quite well there. It’s not likely that a single gene can confer anything even remotely like the characteristics of the donor animal though. So putting a spider gene, whatever it may be, into a human can’t possibly give our superhero spider sense (outside of comic books and movie theaters).


  25. quite true rajini. 


    in this instance it was the villain who was trying to regrow his arm by mixing his genomes with reptilian genes as reptiles can regrow appendages. then it turns out that he becomes a reptile! (yes hollywood at its best:)). but unlike most other movies i liked the premise. it did not appear as far fetched as some of the other proposed fiction out there.


    there is no gene roddenberry though!

  26. Rajini Rao says:


    Feisal Kamil is referring to this genetically designed stingray footwear that turned out to be fake: http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/8/view/21469/shoes-made-from-genetically-engineered-stingrays.html

  27. Deeksha Tare says:


    Seems it’s as hungry as I am at the moment! 😀

  28. Rajini Rao says:


    I’ve learned to dig deep into the notifications, Feisal Kamil . Even so, I come across some tags by accident..never get the notification. Hope people don’t get ticked off by apparent lack of response.


  29. Rajini, Do you by chance have any information on the research for Alzheimer’s Disease, I would like to learn more about this, seems to be a problem with elderly people and I’ve had some experiences with some family members that have lost their battle with this, tragic to have lost these loved ones to a threat that stole them away from all that loved them dearly. 

  30. Rajini Rao says:


    Michael K. Freeman , there’s a lot of information on Alzheimer’s depending on your specific interest. More generally, http://www.alz.org/  has basic information for family support. It seems that there is new information on the science behind this illness every week! Using “Alzheimer’s” as a key word on G+ search bar also pulls up a lot of posts highlighting articles in the lay press. If you have questions, do ask. I’ll try to find answers for you.


  31. thanks for sharing the stringray site!. my daughter is fascinated bythose shoes and wants them!

  32. Rajini Rao says:


    Deepa Ramasamy , they do look cool,  but watch out, they are supposed to be scammers 😦

  33. Jonas Blom says:


    There is a far way from In vitro to in vivo, but if the animal models also work I would be slightly optimistic.. but there is no telling what implications growing a subset of neurons in an adult or even old brain have on the rest of its functionality.. I know the Chinese also provided stem cell therapy for the desperate for big dollars, which gave bone growth inside the brain and obviously didnt alleviate pain or death. But this seems promising..hope for all humanity it eventually is ready for implementation.

  34. Ajay Kumar says:


    Suhail Manzoor l wish the New medicine, for the treatment of Parkinson is researched out soon.

  35. Mostafa Goda says:


    تداخل جميل للالوان

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