Last week, a team at Kyoto University in Japan announced plans to begin a clinical trial using stems cells to treat Parkinson's disease. Though researchers have been testing stem cells for many years, this team is trying a new approach.
"This will be the world's first clinical trial using iPS cells on Parkinson's disease," explained Jun Takahashi, professor at Kyoto University's Centre for iPS Cell Research and Application, who is leading the work.
Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are derived from adult cells and can be manipulated to act like embryonic stem cells. In this study, the iPS cells were used to make dopaminergic progenitors, a specific type of stem cell that matures into dopaminergic neurons. These neurons produce dopamine, which is essential for motor function. In Parkinson's patients, dopaminergic neurons become damaged and die, reducing dopamine production.
In the upcoming clinical trial, the team plans to inject approximately 5 million dopaminergic progenitors into the region of the brain affected by Parkinson's disease. The objective is to replace the lost neurons and restore dopamine production, which should alleviate motor symptoms such as tremors and stiffness experienced by people with Parkinson's.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation funded a very early study by Dr. Takahashi testing a different cell replacement approach. And we continue to explore this promising area for Parkinson's therapies through a partnership with the National Stem Cell Foundation as well as other grants.
MJFF CEO Todd Sherer, PhD, says: "Cell therapy offers the possibility of replacing neurons that are lost in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The goal of these therapies is to restore function to people affected by these disease, essentially reversing disease course."
The study at Kyoto University has begun recruitment in Japan. You can learn more about other recruiting Parkinson's trials and be matched with studies looking for volunteers like you on MJFF's Fox Trial Finder website.