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What Are the Possible Benefits of Stem Cell Therapy for Parkinson's?

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  • Written By: Paul Cartmell
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2016
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Stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s disease has been used as one of the forerunners of stem cell therapy because the medical condition affects a single type of cell within the human brain. The possible benefits of transplanting stem cells into the brains of people with Parkinson’s include the reduction in the effect of symptoms and a possible cure for the condition. Using stem cells from human embryos in medical research into Parkinson’s treatments, however, is a controversial topic that has yielded varying results. Pluripotent stem cell therapy has proven to be a less controversial treatment with potential benefits.

The main benefits hoped to be derived from stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s is the discovery of a cure or effective treatments for reducing the negative effects of the condition in a cost-effective way. Research completed using stem cell therapy allows researchers to develop drugs capable of treating Parkinson’s. Stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s is used in an attempt to develop ways of replacing and repairing the cells of the brain that fail to produce sufficient amounts of dopamine to reverse or halt the effects of Parkinson’s disease.

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Parkinson’s is a medical condition affecting nerve cells in the substantia nigra portion of the brain that produces the chemical dopamine. A lack of dopamine being made in the cells of the brain result in the symptoms of Parkinson’s that include a loss of mobility and problems with speech and walking. Because only dopamine-producing cells are affected, stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s offers the opportunity for creating cells that can produce dopamine and replace the damaged cells.

Identification of the genes Lmx1a and Msx1 that determine the production of dopamine cells allows embryonic stem cells to be programmed to become dopamine-producing cells. Transplanting the embryonic stem cells that produce dopamine into the brains of people with Parkinson’s has shown in some cases a significant long-term reduction in the symptoms of the medical condition. In other cases, results have shown that the transplanted cells showed signs of Parkinson’s behavior.

The use of pluripotent stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s offers less controversial benefits for the treatment of the medical condition. Pluripotent stem cells are harvested from the tissues of the person with the medical condition and reprogrammed in a laboratory to act in a way that is beneficial to the recipient. Using pluripotent stem cells is a potential benefit in removing much of the controversy associated with embryonic stem cells out of the treatment of Parkinson’s.

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