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Bone marrow stem cells may be able to reverse the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. This is according to a new study, led by Takuya Hayashi from the RIKEN Centre for Molecular Imaging Science, who found that, in monkeys, neurons can be derived from bone marrow stem cells and then transplanted back into the brain, which can improve your wellness if you have the devastating neurodegenerative disease.
When dopamine-producing neurons in your midbrain die, this is known as Parkinson’s disease. The neurodegenerative mental health disorder can affect your wellbeing with motor symptoms, such as tremors and stiffness, but the cause of cell death remains unknown and researchers have long sought a way to replace the lost dopamine-producing cells. Now, this new study, published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, has found a way to do so in monkeys.
For the study, 10 adult male cynomolgus monkeys (crab-eating macaques) were injected with a neurotoxin that induces a Parkinson’s-like condition. The researchers then took bone marrow samples from the monkey and isolated the mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which they then treated with growth factors. This directed the MSCs to differentiate into A9 dopaminergic neurons, which is the neuronal subtype that is most severely damaged in Parkinson’s patients, and these cells were then transplanted back into half of the subjects – by means of comparison.
When cells are derived from and transferred to the same individual, this is known as an ‘autologous’ transplantation. This is an attractive approach for eventual clinical use, as autologous transplantation eliminates the possibility of immune rejection. The results of this transplantation revealed that the treated monkeys showed improvements in motor behaviours, while the other five, who were given a sham operation, showed no improvement.
The team plans to use monkeys again for their next experiment, in which they will compare the efficacy of transplanting differentiated cells versus native MSCs. Hayashi commented that he also hopes that his system can soon be translated into humans. ‘Our newly developed system of cell-based therapy restored motor function of animal models with Parkinson’s disease,’ he said. We should now test whether we can derive functional and viable dopaminergic cells from human MSCs.’