Scottish scientists have paved the way to developing new treatments for patients with Parkinson’s disease. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh generated induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells with a rapidly progressing form of the disease, which can affect people in their early 30s. The cells will enable scientists to test new drugs as they search for ways of tackling the debilitating disease.
Campaigners described the development as “exciting”. It also avoids the controversy associated with some forms of stem cell research, as iPS cells are created without destroying human embryos.
The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, took skin samples from a patient diagnosed with a progressive form of Parkinson’s. The researchers at Edinburgh University, working with colleagues at University College London (UCL), were then able to use these skin cells to generate brain cells affected by the disease. The cells can now be used to allow scientists to model the disease in the lab to try to work out why certain nerve cells die in patients with the disease. They also aim to find drugs that prevent the death of neurons, which break down in patients with Parkinson’s. Scientists will use the nerve cells to monitor the effectiveness of potential drugs to slow or halt the progress of the condition before they are tested on patients.
Dr Tilo Kunath, from Edinburgh University’s Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine, said: “Current drugs for Parkinson’s alleviate symptoms of the condition. Modelling the disease in a dish with real Parkinson’s neurons enables us to test drugs that may halt or reverse the condition. This study provides an ideal platform to gain fresh insight into the condition, and opens a new area of research to discover disease-modifying drugs.”
BBC. August 23. The Scotsman. August 24. Nature Communications. August 23.
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