Scientists have unveiled a radical new treatment for Parkinson’s disease that involves transplanting neurons into the brain. The treatment will be tested on some patients early next year.
The Guardian reports that the new approach, developed by a team from Cambridge University in London and Lund University in Sweden, uses lab-grown stem cells to replace those damaged by the disease before they are transformed into neurons that can supply dopamine to the brain.
Parkinson’s disease occurs when dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain begin to die due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Dopamine helps a person control body movements. Decreased levels of dopamine in the brain cause symptoms such as arteriosclerosis, depression, inability to move or being completely bedridden.
Professor Roger Parker from the University of Cambridge, who is involved in the development of this new treatment, said: “It has taken a long time to get to this stage of a tissue transplant-based treatment that we hope will be widely used in the fight against Parkinson’s within a few years. It is certainly a promising approach.”
“We now know that transplanting dopamine cells into the brain will work and that the procedure is safe. Providing enough tissue is no longer a problem because we can produce these cells in the laboratory in large numbers and at a relatively low cost.”
The treatment will be tested on four participants from Sweden and four from the UK over the next few months.
The researchers expect the trials to take at least two years to fully validate the results and assess possible side effects.