Hope for breakthrough on path to Parkinson's cure

Scientists have managed to extract brain stem cells from mice which could be used for repairs

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 October, 2013, 4:29am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 October, 2013, 4:29am

Scientists at Baptist University are hoping to find a cure for neurological disorders like Parkinson's disease by injecting patients with their own healthy brain stem cells for repairs.

They say they have succeeded in extracting and reinjecting brain stem cells in mice and now hope to get funding to work towards carrying out tests on humans.

"Current medicine and simulation treatment cannot really cure the disease, but only delay the activity of its symptoms," Ken Yung Kin-lam, professor of biology said. "But neural repair lies in the replacement of brain cells lost as a result of disease or injury - it would be a long-term cure."

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Symptoms include shaking and behavioural problems, with dementia often occurring in the late stages. Sufferers may also have difficulty walking.

While it is known the problems are caused by the death of dopamine-generating cells in the midbrain, the cause of this cell death has remained a mystery.

Yung and his colleagues published their findings in the international edition of a German chemistry journal in August this year.

"Neural stem cells lie at the core of brain development and repair, and alteration in the cells' self-renewal can have major consequences for brain functions," Yung said. "Yet how stem cells can be extracted and differentiated into other useful brain cells is unknown."

His research team has spent two years working on a method using iron-oxide nano-particles to act as an agent to identify and locate stem cells capable of being extracted from the brain with a super-fine syringe. The cells are then filtered before being injected into the damaged area.

"The process takes about a month and it would do little harm to the patient as it only involves minimal invasion with a syringe," Yung said, adding the technique had been successfully tested on mice.

Yung said his team was now seeking funding to continue more clinical studies on the technology. If everything goes well, it could be ready for testing on humans in 10 years time.

These neural stem cells offered a safer option with lower risks of immune rejection, "because the cells come from the patient himself and are absolutely tailor-made", Yung added.