Parkinson's and stem cells

Jordan Gallagher, Hailey Aurilia

What are stem Cells?

Stem cell are specialized cells of a multicellular organism that is capable of giving rise to indefinitely more cells of the same type, and form which certain other kinds of cells arise by differentiation.

Stem cells are the body's raw materials, cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated. Under the right conditions in the body or a laboratory, stem cells divide to form more cells called daughter cells. These daughter cells either become new stem cells (self-renewal) or become specialized cells (differentiation) with a more specific function, such as blood cells, brain cells, heart muscle or bone. No other cell in the body has the natural ability to generate new cell types.

Where do stem cells come from?

Embryonic stem cells come from embryos that are three to five days old. At this stage, an embryo is called a blastocyst and has about 150 cells. These are pluripotent stem cells, meaning they can divide into more stem cells or can become any type of cell in the body. But adult stem cells are different. These stem cells are found in small numbers in most adult tissues, such as bone marrow or fat. Compared with embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells have a more limited ability to give rise to various cells of the body.

Stem cell therapy for Parkinson's

Scientists do not know exactly what causes Parkinson's, but they do know what areas of the brain are involved. Researchers are growing dopamine-producing nerve cells so that they can study the disease, especially in those cases where there is a known genetic cause for the condition. Professor Parmar from Lund university in Sweden says "this study shows that the cells that we generate from stem cells, they function equally as well as the cells that we find in the brain." This study shows it is possible to get human embryonic stem cells to produce a new generation of dopamine cells that behave like native dopamine cells when transplanted into the brains of rats. The authors note that the transplanted cells

-" Survived in the long term and restored production of dopamine in the brain"

-"Function in a similar way to dopamine cells of the human fetal mid-brain"

-"Are capable of producing long distance links to the correct parts of the brain"

-"The axons that they grew met the requirements for use in humans"

The final step to the research is to prepare for human clinical trials. The team hopes the cells will be ready for human critical trials in about three years.