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iPSCs, Potential Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

Researchers at the Buck Institute for Age Research used induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs, from humans (to treat rodents) with Parkinson’s Disease, and may have found an efficient process for making such treatments.

The lab of Buck faculty member Xianmin Zeng changed stem cells, which had already matured into skin and blood cells, into ones that are pluripotent. 

  • Such pluripotent cells, including those more controversially derived from embryos are able to become any number of cells and could be used a wide variety of disorders.
  • The trouble has been in getting induced pluripotent stem cells to survive after transplantation, stick to their tasks and correct behavioral problems caused by Parkinson’s,
  • Human embryonic stem cells, or hESCs, have been found to survive and correct those problems.

Just as importantly, the protocol used at the Novato Institute could allow the neurons to be efficiently mass produced with good manufacturing practice standards being a prerequisite for moving iPSCs into clinical trials in humans.

  • Zeng’s lab coaxed the skin and blood cells to become dopamine-producing neurons, according to research published in the online edition of the journal Stem Cells,
  • Parkinson’s patients lack sufficient dopamine, a neurotransmitter produced in the mid-brain that aids several critical functions, including motor skills.

The neurons in the Zeng lab’s study were transplanted into rats that had mid-brain injury similar to that found in humans with Parkinson’s. The research was supported by grants from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. (HWM and R Leuty, SF Business Times)