Scientists in Sweden are developing new ways to grow brain cells in the laboratory that could one day be used to treat patients with Parkinsons disease, an international conference of biologists organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF) was told last week.
Professor Ernest Arenas of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm presented his research to the EuroSTELLS Stem Cell Niches conference in Barcelona on January 11. Stem cell therapy hold the promise of treating disease by growing new tissues and organs from stem cells blank cells that have the potential to develop into fully mature or differentiated cells. The EuroSTELLS is an ESF EURCORES programme, managed by the European Medical Research Councils (EMRC), that aims to develop a stem cell toolbox by generating fundamental knowledge on stem cell biology.
Parkinsons disease affects around three in a hundred of people aged over 65. The condition can cause muscles to become rigid and limbs to tremble uncontrollably. Parkinsons disease results from the loss of a particular type of brain cell called dopaminergic (DA) neurons in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra.
Among the various approaches that are currently being discussed from an ethical perspective, is the possible approach of taking stem cells, growing them into new brain cells and transplanting these into the patient. The idea is to start with stem cells and induce them to become neurons, said Professor Arenas, whose research is carried out as part of a EuroSTELLS collaboration. These could then be transplanted into the brain of the patient. Also, such cells could be ideal for developing and testing new drugs to treat brain disease.
However, to create such cells that function efficiently and safely is a major challenge. Early efforts at growing DA neurons from embryonic stem cells produced cells which, when transplanted into animal models, had a tendency to form tumours or clumps, or die without an
|Contact: Dr. Fiona Kernan|
European Science Foundation