Researchers at the University of Lund in Sweden and MIRCen in Paris have announced that they have succeeded in growing dopamine producing neurons in a focused way from embryonal stem cells. They published their results recently in an article in the specialist journal Cell Stem Cell. According to this, the dopamine neurons (DN) generated from embryonal stem cells (ESC) show a similar potential to the dopamine neurons from human foetuses. After transplantation into the brains of rats, the DN generated from ESC survive a long time, link over long distances with other areas of the brain and re-instate the previously disrupted production and distribution of dopamine. Thus they are very suitable for transplantation into the brains of Parkinson’s patients, in whom the dopamine neurons have largely died off for unexplained reasons.
The researchers are part of the EU-funded projects NeuroStemCell and NeuroStemcellRepair. They hope that the dopamine neurons produced by them with this method will be tested within three years to the extent that they can be used in clinical tests on humans.
The advantage of the method presented by the researchers is that dopamine neurons can be produced for many patients. However, it is a disadvantage that these cells come from another person (embryo) so immuno-suppressant drugs will need to be administered so that the transplantee’s immune system does not kill off the implanted dopamine neurons.
By contrast, e.g. Summit4StemCell uses cells of the patient concerned for producing dopamine neurons, as these will not be rejected by the immune system. However, these dopamine neurons must be individually produced for each transplant recipient, which is more expensive. The step to producing dopamine neurons and implantation in rats was already done by Summit4StemCell around two years ago.
The results from the University of Lund and MIRCen in Paris confirm that dopamine neurons produced from (embryonal or induced-pluripotent) stem cells can be implanted with clear success into the brains of mammals and can effectively heal the damage caused there by Parkinson’s disease very effectively. As they are much more pure than the foetal cells, implanted in the 90s, i.e. have a much higher content of young dopamine neurons ready to network, they are foreseen to lead to significantly faster and further-reaching Healing results than the foetal cells.
Study Director Prof. Malin Parmar explains the research results and their significance in the following video: