Could stem cell therapy treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson's disease
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New research suggests that stem cell therapy could be used to alleviate the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in the future.

The need to treat Parkinson’s Disease symptoms differently

The most common treatment for Parkinson’s Disease is based on enhancing the nigro-striatal pathway in the brain with dopamine-modulating therapies. However, the treatment has significant long-term limitations and side effects.

The co-authors, Claire Henchcliffe, from the Department of Neurology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Department of Neurosurgery, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, and Malin Parmar, PhD, from the Wallenberg Neuroscience Center and Lund Stem Cell Center, Lund University, Lund, Sweden, explained: “We are in desperate need of a better way of helping people with PD. It is on the increase worldwide. There is still no cure, and medications only go part way to fully treat incoordination and movement problems.”

They continued: “If successful, using stem cells as a source of transplantable dopamine-producing nerve cells could revolutionize care of the PD patient in the future. A single surgery could potentially provide a transplant that would last throughout a patient’s lifespan, reducing or altogether avoiding the need for dopamine-based medications.”

The future of stem cell therapy

Dr Parmar added: “We are moving into a very exciting era for stem cell therapy. The first-generation cells are now being trialed and new advances in stem cell biology and genetic engineering promise even better cells and therapies in the future. There is a long road ahead in demonstrating how well stem cell-based reparative therapies will work, and much to understand about what, where, and how to deliver the cells, and to whom. But the massive strides in technology over recent years make it tempting to speculate that cell replacement may play an increasing role in alleviating at least the motor symptoms, if not others, in the decades to come.”

The researchers have recognised that there are still significant biological, practical, and commercial barriers to be addressed before this could become a routine therapy.

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