Improved Stem Cell Approach Could Aid Fight Against Parkinson's

Improved Stem Cell Approach Could Aid Fight Against Parkinson's


Monday, 7 January, 2019

Scientists led by Dr Tilo Kunath (MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine) have taken a key step towards improving a promising new treatment – known as cell replacement therapy – which was first used in a clinical trial last year. 

A key limitation of this treatment at present is that over time, transplanted tissue can acquire signs of disease from nearby cells. To combat this, researchers at the University of Edinburgh have created stem cells – which have the ability to transform into any cell type – that are resistant to developing Parkinson’s. They did this by removing a gene linked to the formation of toxic clumps, known as Lewy bodies, which are typical of Parkinson’s brain cells, from the DNA of human cells using an advanced technology known as CRISPR. 

This advance could markedly improve a next generation of therapies for the condition, which affects around one in 350 people in the UK.Researchers say the advance could be most beneficial to younger patients living with Parkinson’s and those with an aggressive form of the condition, but that the advance had to be tested in human trials.

The study, published in the European Journal of Neuroscience, was funded by the UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology, the pharmaceutical company UCB Biopharma and The Cure Parkinson’s Trust.

Dr Tilo Kunathsaid “We know that Parkinson’s disease spreads from neuron-neuron, invading healthy cells. This could essentially put a shelf life on the potential of cell replacement therapy. Our exciting discovery has the potential to considerably improve these emerging treatments."

Dr Simon Stott, Deputy Director of Research for the Cure Parkinson’s Trust said, "Cell replacement therapy represents one experimental approach to regenerative medicine for people with Parkinson's. This new research by Dr Tilo Kunath and his team at the University of Edinburgh provides another advancement in the development of this treatment. The Cure Parkinson's Trust is thrilled to be associated with this inspiring and innovative research."