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Identification of dopamine 'mother cells' could lead to future Parkinson's treatments
Date:4/7/2008

Mother cells which produce the neurons affected by Parkinsons disease have been identified by scientists, according to new research published in the journal Glia.

The new discovery could pave the way for future treatments for the disease, including the possibility of growing new neurons, and the cells which support them, in the lab. Scientists hope these could then be transplanted into patients to counteract the damage caused by Parkinsons.

The new study focuses on dopaminergic neurons brain cells which produce and use the chemical dopamine to communicate with surrounding neurons. The researchers found that these important neurons are created when a particular type of cell in the embryonic brain divides during the early stages of brain development in the womb.

If a person suffers from Parkinsons disease, it is the depletion of these dopaminergic neurons and the associated lack of dopamine in the body which causes chronic and progressive symptoms including tremors, stiff muscles and slow movement.

The international research team used mouse models in the laboratory to examine the early stages of brain formation. They discovered that dopaminergic neurons are formed by precursor cells identified as radial glia-like cells by the scientists because of their similarity to radial glia cells which are already known to build other parts of the brain.

The scientists hope that this discovery could, in the future, lead to new therapies which would use these radial glia-like cells derived from patients own stem cells to grow replacement neurons in the lab, which could then be transplanted into the brain to replace the neurons they have lost.

One of the authors of the paper, Dr Anita Hall from Imperial College Londons Department of Life Sciences, explains the potential of the teams findings: You could call these radial glia-like cells the stem cells of this part of the brain they contain all the information needed t
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Contact: Danielle Reeves
danielle.reeves@imperial.ac.uk
44-020-759-42198
Imperial College London
Source:Eurekalert

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