Parkinson’s is often characterized by the loss of dopaminergic neurons, resulting in its characteristic movement disabilities and tremors. Scientists are now looking to replace these lost nerve cells with lab-grown ones.
Dopamine cell replacement therapy has been a domain of interest in Parkinson’s treatment for a few decades, evading large-scale success. However, a biotech company recently reported success in easing the symptoms of the neurodegenerative condition with lab-made nerve cell implants.
Details: The California-based biotech company Bayer has reported initial success with the lab-made neurons they implanted in the brains of Parkinson’s patients — with “reduced symptoms for some” patients, as .
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition caused by the death of neurons critical for the production of dopamine — a neurotransmitter associated with movement and coordination.
Patients with Parkinson’s fluctuate between an “ON” state when their symptoms are under control and an “OFF” state which signifies worsening symptoms.
The “ON” and “OFF” states differentiate between motor fluctuations — with symptoms like fatigue, pain, and cognitive deficits worsening during the “OFF” state. These OFF periods are typically triggered when medications wear off, with varying experiences.
“The data from this Phase I open-label study are extremely encouraging,” said Claire Henchcliffe, a neurologist at the University of California, Irvine, and one of the study’s leaders. “The hope now is that these trends continue and translate into meaningful benefit for people with Parkinson’s disease in controlled clinical trials,” she added.
Transplanting dopamine-producing neurons into the brains of Parkinson’s patients has been studied at least since the 1970s. Such transplants were in the late ’80s, based on a decade of similar studies in animal models.
Meanwhile: Human embryonic stem cell (ESC) research has been plagued with ethical, religious, and political concerns. The fundamental question posed is whether pursuing the cure for serious illnesses justifies destroying early human embryos.
What’s next: Bayer is planning to transition into Phase II of the clinical trial, expecting to begin enrolling patients by the first half of 2024.