Compelling stem cell research in Japan about to begin

Compelling stem cell research in Japan about to begin

On July 30, 2018, Kyoto University announced that a clinical trial using stem cells to treat Parkinson’s disease is set to begin. (I wrote an earlier blog with a general discussion of the treatment of Parkinson’s disease with stem cells, for those interested.)

This trial will recruit seven patients and will use induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cell-derived dopamine producing cells. These cells are created as follows: Adult skin or blood cells are taken from a donor and reprogrammed in a cell culture dish to revert to an embryonic state. Then, these cells, referred to as IPS cells, are further treated to become dopamine producing neurons. This trial will be the world’s first using IPS cells for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. The engineered IPS cells will be injected deep within the brain, in the basal ganglia, where the ends of the dopamine producing neurons live. Only patients who live in Japan are eligible for the trial.

The adult cells to be reprogrammed will be taken from donors, and not from the trial patients, which means that at least initially, an immunosuppressant medication will be administered to those in the trial to prevent rejection of the cells.

One concern of using IPS cell-derived dopamine producing neurons in humans was that the cells, once injected into the brain would not engraft correctly into the brain and could even cause tumors. To address this concern, the Kyoto group tested these cells in monkeys and published their results last August. The cells that were injected survived and functioned as dopamine neurons. In addition, after two years of observing the monkeys, no tumors were seen.

APDA and the entire Parkinson community await the results of this trial, and anticipate additional trials, currently being designed, which involve using stem cells to treat Parkinson’s disease.

WEBINAR: Parkinson’s Disease Spotlight On Clinical Trials

Here is an overview of the APDA webinar on Parkinson’s clinical trials, hosted on 2.9.16, including why clinical trials are vital to Parkinson’s research and how to participate.

Watch Webinar