Over the last few years researchers have figured out how to transform iPS cells into dopamine-producing neurons, raising the possibility of transplanting dopaminergic cells into the brains of patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD).
Kikuchi et al. looked at the effect of dopaminergic cell transplantation into the putamen on PD symptoms in monkeys treated with MPTP, which is a model of PD.
Compared to placebo injections, the stem cell transplantation improved symptoms. Notably, it did so somewhat less well than L-DOPA, but it seems plausible that this therapy could be eventually used once L-DOPA has failed, as L-DOPA tends to do over time in PD.
Perhaps the best news from this study is that they identified no markers of cancer formation in the transplanted brains after more than a year post-transplant. It’s always good news when your proposed therapy turns out to be less likely to cause brain cancer as a side effect.
Clinical trials will apparently start soon — from which we will have much to learn, and hopefully some good news.