Stem Cell Treatment for Parkinson's Disease

Stem cells offer hope to Parkinson’s patients. If researchers can cultivate cells which can specialize into nerve cells that produce dopamine, they will be able to replace lost nerve cells.

Parkinson’s Disease, a degenerative brain disorder, affects movements such as walking, talking, and writing. In Parkinson’s patients, nerve cells located in a part of the midbrain called the substantia nigra get damaged or die. The neurons then stop producing a hormone called dopamine. One of the hormone’s tasks in the body is to aid smooth, coordinated muscle movement. When about 80% of the dopamine-producing cells are damaged, not enough dopamine is produced and a person starts to show typical Parkinson’s symptoms. Parkinson’s sufferers usually exhibit stiffness and shaking. Their movements are slow, and their balance is often impaired.

Stem cells offer hope to those with Parkinson’s. If researchers can learn to cultivate cells which can specialize into nerve cells that produce dopamine, they will be able to replace lost nerve cells.

A treatment method currently being explored involves transplanting stem cells into those sites of the brain that lack dopamine. Researchers have cultivated stem cells taken from bone marrow, and made them very similar to the nerve cells that produce dopamine. Researchers plan to test these cells in an animals with Parkinson’s disease. Since Parkinson’s is caused by the failure of one particular type of cell to do its job, Parkinson’s is thought to be one of the most likely ailments to benefit from stem cell research. Current progress in stem cell research suggests that stem cells may one day provide a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

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