Tuesday December 11, 2018

Research: Japan Scientists to Use ‘Reprogrammed’ Stem Cells to Fight Parkinson’s

The fact that the clinical trial uses iPS cells rather than human embryonic cells means the treatment would be acceptable in countries such as Ireland and much of Latin America, where embryonic cells are banned

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Japan scientists
Jun Takahashi, left, professor at Kyoto University's Centre for iPS Cell Research and Application, attends a news conference in Kyoto, Japan, July 30, 2018. (VOA)
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Japanese scientists said Monday they will start clinical trials next month on a treatment for Parkinson’s disease, transplanting “reprogrammed” stem cells into brains, seeking a breakthrough in treating the neurodegenerative disorder.

Parkinson’s is caused by a lack of dopamine made by brain cells, and researchers have long hoped to use stem cells to restore normal production of the neurotransmitter chemical.

The clinical trials come after researchers at Japan’s Kyoto University successfully used human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) to restore functioning brain cells in monkeys last year.

So-called iPS cells are made by removing mature cells from an individual — often from the skin or blood — and reprogramming them to behave like embryonic stem cells. They can then be coaxed into dopamine-producing brain cells.

Parkinsons
Parkinson’s is caused by a lack of dopamine made by brain cells. (IANS)

“This will be the world’s first clinical trial using iPS cells on Parkinson’s disease,” Jun Takahashi, professor at Kyoto University’s Centre for iPS Cell Research and Application, told a news conference.

The center is headed by Shinya Yamanaka, who in 2012 shared a Nobel Prize for medicine with a British scientist, John Gurdon, for the discovery that adult cells can be transformed back into embryo-like cells.

Also Read: Boxing for Fitness Takes the Fight to Parkinson’s Disease

“We intend to carry on conducting our research carefully, yet expeditiously, in coordination with Kyoto University Hospital, so that new treatment using iPS cells will be brought to patients as soon as possible,” Yamanaka said in a statement.

The fact that the clinical trial uses iPS cells rather than human embryonic cells means the treatment would be acceptable in countries such as Ireland and much of Latin America, where embryonic cells are banned. (VOA)

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Thinning of Retina Maybe Linked to Parkinson’s: Researchers

The thinning of the retina corresponded with the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine and the severity of the disease.

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Parkinson's Disease
GREAT MANCHESTER RUN 2010 Parkinson's UK Runners 16 May 2010 Manchester

The thinning of retina — the lining of nerve cells in the back of the eye — could be linked to Parkinson’s disease, a finding that can boost diagnoses to detect the disease in its earliest stages, researchers have found.

According to the study, the thinning of the retina is linked to the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine, a substance that helps control movement — a hallmark of the Parkinson’s disease that impairs motor ability.

“Our study is the first to show a link between the thinning of the retina and a known sign of the progression of the disease — the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine,” said Jee-Young Lee, from the Seoul National University in South Korea.

Parkinson's Disease
Representational Image. Flickr

“We also found the thinner the retina, the greater the severity of disease. These discoveries may mean that neurologists may eventually be able to use a simple eye scan to detect Parkinson’s disease in its earliest stages, before problems with movement begin,” Lee added.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, involved 49 people with an average age of 69 years who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease two years earlier but who had not yet started medication. They were compared to 54 people without the disease who were matched for age.

The team evaluated each participant with a complete eye exam, high-resolution eye scans as well as PET scan and found retina thinning, most notably in the two inner layers of the five layers of the retina, in those with Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson’s Disease Gets Awareness From Various Events. Flickr

In addition, the thinning of the retina corresponded with the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine and the severity of the disease.

Also Read: Headache Due to Spending Long Hours in Front of Computer? Here’s How You Can Protect Your Eyes!

If confirmed in larger studies, “retina scans may not only allow earlier treatment of Parkinson’s disease but more precise monitoring of treatments that could slow progression of the disease as well”, Lee said. (IANS)