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Stem cells can replace nerves damaged by Parkinson's in monkeys

Dopaminergic neurons; Photo: Kyoto University

A Kyoto University research team says it successfully used neurons created from stem cells to replace neurons damaged by Parkinson's disease in monkeys.

What they found: The five-year study found transplanted neurons could survive long-term and restore movement control with minimal side effects, the scientists said. They report their results were improved by matching proteins in the grafted tissue with proteins in the recipient and using mild immunosuppressants.

Why this is important: Among other problems, Parkinson's disease, which affects roughly one million Americans, causes neurons to degenerate and die. As a result, nerve cells can't communicate with muscles properly. While drugs can help alleviate symptoms temporarily, researchers are searching for ways to halt the degenerative aspect of the disease. There is renewed interest in using stem cell research after a halt years ago due to a lack of success and painful side effects.