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Kyoto scientists devise stem cell treatment for Parkinsons

A pioneering new stem cell treatment with the ‘potential to cure Parkinson’s disease’ has been crafted by researchers.

In trials on laboratory monkeys, Japanese scientists were able to restore nerve cells destroyed by a similar condition.

In humans, the disease causes a progressive loss of neurons, which release the vital nerve transmitter dopamine that controls movement. 

Experts hailed the findings, released by Kyoto University, citing the breakthrough study to be ‘extremely promising’. 

In trials on laboratory monkeys, Japanese researchers were able to restore nerve cells destroyed by a similar condition

It is believed that the team of scientists are just a short step away from testing the stem cell treatment in clinical trials. 

Lead author Professor Jun Takahashi said that they are hoping to start looking for suitable patients within the next 15 months.

How was the study carried out? 

For the research, published in the journal Nature, 11 monkeys with an artificially induced version of the disease were tested.

They showed significant improvement just two years after having special stem cells that emitted dopamine transplanted into their brains.

Before being given the treatment, they displayed similar symptoms to humans, including tremors and impaired balance.


A diabetes drug could be a breakthrough treatment for stopping Parkinson’s disease in its tracks, a study suggested earlier this month.

People with Parkinson’s who took Exenatide – an existing diabetes medication – for around a year had better motor skills than those who took a placebo.

The results suggested the drug could halt decline in Parkinson’s patients rather than just relieving symptoms.

Experts welcomed the University College London (UCL) research as a ‘particularly promising’ step in the search for a treatment to slow or stop the disease.

Some of the monkeys were given the iPS cells derived both from human Parkinson’s patients and healthy donors. 

Brain scans confirmed that the cells were functioning as expected and not triggering a damaging immune response.

A key finding from the research was that no tumours had appeared – a recognised hazard of experimental stem cell therapies.

Welcomed by experts 

Dr Tilo Kunath, a Parkinson’s UK-funded researcher at the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine, welcomed the results.

He said: ‘This is extremely promising research demonstrating that a safe and highly effective cell therapy for Parkinson’s can be produced in the lab.

‘Such a therapy has the potential to reverse the symptoms of Parkinson’s in patients by restoring their dopamine-producing neurons.’

Dr Kunath added: ‘The next stage will be to test these therapies in a first-in-human clinical trial.’

What is Parkinson’s disease? 

Parkinson’s disease affects one in 500 people and around 127,000 people in the UK live with the condition. It is believed one million Americans also suffer.

It causes muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, tremors, sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, an impaired quality of life and can lead to severe disability. 


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