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Stem Cells could be Key in Treating Parkinson’s

Update Date: Nov 07, 2014 09:30 AM EST

For years, researchers have studied how stem cells, which can become any cell in the body, could potentially help treat and cure certain diseases. In a recent study out of Sweden, researchers used stem cells to treat Parkinson's disease in rats.

Parkinson's is a neurodegenerative disease that occurs when the brain loses cells responsible for producing dopamine, which helps manage mood and movement. The disease causes symptoms such as shaking also known as tremors. It can also impair one's walking ability, movement and coordination. There are currently no cures for the disease. However, drugs and brain stimulation can help relieve some of the symptoms.

In this study, the team headed by Malin Parmar, an associate professor of regenerative neurobiology at the Lund University, started their trial by stimulating Parkinson's in rats. The researchers killed all of the dopamine-cells on one side of the brain. They then injected the rats with new dopamine-producing neurons that were developed from human embryonic stem cells. The team discovered that the stem cell transplants were effective in reversing the damage caused by the disease.

"It's a huge breakthrough in the field [and] a stepping stone towards clinical trials," Parmar said according to BBC News.

Arthur Roach, added, "This important research is a key step along the way in helping us to understand how stem cells might shape future Parkinson's treatments. There are important potential advantages of these cells over the fetal-derived cells used in past cell transplantation work. This study could be a stride towards clinical trials in people with Parkinson's but there are still many questions that need to be answered before this development can be tested in people with the condition."

Even though the study was done in animal models, the researchers believe that human clinical trials could start as early as 2017.

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