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Researchers At Scripps To Study Possible New Treatment For Parkinson's Disease

SAN DIEGO, Jan. 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Scripps Clinic, in partnership with The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), has begun the research phase of a proposed clinical trial using induced pluripotent stem cells to halt or reverse the effects of Parkinson's disease.


Under the leadership of Melissa Houser, MD, neurologist and medical director of Scripps Clinic's Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center, and co-investigator Jeanne F. Loring, PhD, professor and director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at TSRI, skin cells taken from Parkinson's disease patients who meet select criteria are being cultivated in vitro and turned into pluripotent stem cells. These stem cells will be developed into dopamine-producing brain cells.

The plans, which will require Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, are to implant these cells back into the donor patients' brains; the goal is for the cells to integrate inside the brain and produce enough dopamine to alleviate the worst symptoms of Parkinson's disease. There are currently several clinical trials using pluripotent stem cells to replace cells lost to injury or neurodegenerative disease, as well as for the development of pharmaceuticals, but reimplantation of cells into the same patient for function restoration as a treatment for Parkinson's disease has never been attempted.  

"What sets our study apart from many others is that it's patient-specific," said Dr. Houser. "That means our patients who initially donated their skin cells will eventually receive their own cells again, with their own DNA, just in a different form. Our hope is that this will slow or stop the progression of Parkinson's disease while minimizing the potential for rejection."

Pluripotent stem cells

Stem cells are unspecialized cells that can regenerate and can be directed to convert into specific tissue or organ cells with specialized functions.

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