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Japanese researchers announced the first human trial using a kind of stem cell to treat Parkinson’s disease.

About the Research:

  • The research team plans to inject five million induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells, which have the potential to develop into any cell in the body, into patient brains.
  • The iPS cells from healthy donors will be developed into dopamine-producing brain cells, which are no longer present in people with Parkinson’s disease.
  • iPS cells are created by stimulating mature, already specialised, cells back into a juvenile state — basically cloning without the need for an embryo.
  • The primates with Parkinson’s symptoms regained significant mobility after iPS cells were inserted into their brains.

Parkinson’s Disease:

  • Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing (“dopaminergic”) neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra.
  • Symptoms generally develop slowly over years.
  • The progression of symptoms is often a bit different from one person to another due to the diversity of the disease. People may experience:
    • Tremor.
    • Bradykinesia(slowed movement).
    • Limb rigidity.
    • Gait and balance problems.
    • Loss of automatic movements.
    • Speech changes.
    • Writing changes.

The cause remains largely unknown. Although there is no cure, treatment options vary and include medications and surgery.

Stem Cell Therapy:

  • Stem cells are a class of undifferentiated cells that are able to differentiate into specialized cell types. Commonly, stem cells come from two main sources
  • Embryos formed during the blastocyst phase of embryological development (embryonic stem cells) and Adult tissue (adult stem cells).
  • Both types are generally characterized by their potency, or potential to differentiate into different cell types (such as skin, muscle, bone, etc.).
  • Stem Cell Therapy (SCT) is the treatment of various disorders, non-serious to life threatening, by using stem cells.
  • These stem cells can be procured from a lot of different sources and used to potentially treat more than 80 disorders, including neuromuscular and degenerative disorders.

Applications of Stem Cell Therapy:

  • Brain and spinal cord injury
  • Generation of heart muscle cells
  • Stimulating growth of new blood vessels to repopulate damaged heart tissue
  • Secretion of growth factors
  • Blood-cell formation
  • Re growing teeth
  • Cochlear hair cell regrowth
  • Wound healing
  • Blindness and vision impairment

Adult Versus Embryonic Stem Cells:

  • Embryonic stem cells are present only in very early embryos whereas adult stem cells are present in tissues of children and adults.
  • Since the embryonic cells are unspecialized cells, they have the potential to develop into any cell type. In contrast, the adult stem cells are only capable of producing into tissue specific cell types.
  • The adult stem cells are difficult to grow in culture. The Embryonic stem cells, in contrast, can be easily grown in culture.
  • Unlike the adult stem cells, the embryonic stem cells can multiply indefinitely resulting in a very large number of daughter cells.
  • The Embryonic cells can be easily obtained from the early embryos while the adult cells are very rare so that they are difficult to obtain from the body.
  • The Embryonic stem cells have more potential to become cancerous while the adult stem cells have less potential to be so.

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