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Patient-derived stem cells could improve drug research for Parkinson's
Date:7/4/2012

Researchers have taken a step toward personalized medicine for Parkinson's disease, by investigating signs of the disease in patient-derived cells and testing how the cells respond to drug treatments. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The researchers collected skin cells from patients with genetically inherited forms of Parkinson's and reprogrammed those cells into neurons. They found that neurons derived from individuals with distinct types of Parkinson's showed common signs of distress and vulnerability in particular, abnormalities in the cellular energy factories known as mitochondria. At the same time, the cells' responses to different treatments depended on the type of Parkinson's each patient had.

The results were published in Science Translational Medicine.

"These findings suggest new opportunities for clinical trials of Parkinson's disease, in which cell reprogramming technology could be used to identify the patients most likely to respond to a particular intervention," said Margaret Sutherland, Ph.D., a program director at NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

A consortium of researchers conducted the study with primary funding from NINDS. The consortium is led by Ole Isacson, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of neurology at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

The NINDS consortium's first goal was to transform the patients' skin cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which are adult cells that have been reprogrammed to behave like embryonic stem cells. The consortium researchers then used a combination of growth conditions and growth-stimulating molecules to coax these iPS cells into becoming neurons, including the type that die in Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson's disease affects a number of brain regions, including a motor control area of the brain called the substantia nigra. There, it destroys neurons that
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Contact: Daniel Stimson, NINDS
nindspressteam@ninds.nih.gov
301-496-5751
NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Source:Eurekalert

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