Could New Stem Cell Research Lead To A Cure For Parkinson’s Disease?

Stem cell research has made leaps and bounds over the past decade or so, now offering a new way to look at treating human illness. For example, a new study out of Japan suggests that stem cell therapy might provide a potential treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

As described in the journal Nature, the study authors cited a 40 to 55 percent improvement in motor skills when new brain [stem] cells were transplanted into the brains of monkey’s with Parkinson’s disease.

Among this group of scientists, Professor Jun Takahashi, of Kyoto University, said, definitively, that the treatment helped to improve these monkeys movement control and balance.

He explains, “Judging from our data and previous clinical trials using foetal mid-brain tissues, I think a stem cell-based therapy is effective for Parkinson’s disease.”

Of course, there is more to Parkinson’s disease than just fine motor skill disruption: there is also cognitive decline.

Regarding this aspect, Professor Takahashi made sure to comment, “In this study, we did not evaluate their memory, because memory function is not deteriorated in this [disease] model. So, I have no idea about the effect of this therapy on memory function.”
In regards to how close this research is to a full cure, he responded: “It depends on the definition of ‘complete cure’. A stem cell-based therapy can replace lost neurons but cannot delete a cause of the disease. If somebody finds the way to delete the cause of the disease and a stem cell-therapy is combined, it will be a ‘complete cure.’”

Still, Edinburgh University’s Dr Tilo Kunath comments that these results are “extremely promising” as the trial demonstrates a “safe and highly effective cell therapy for Parkinson’s can be produced in the lab”.

Obviously, then, the next stage is to move on to test the potential therapy in human subjects. As such, the team is looking to plan the first in-human clinical trials, soon. As a matter of fact, the research team will begin looking for suitable patients to begin live human trials of the treatment at some point in the next 15 months.