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Reprogramming brain cells important first step for new Parkinson's therapy
Date:12/13/2011

ed neurons grow and make connections, reducing symptoms for a time. Ethical issues about the source of embryonic stem cells; the interaction of cells with host cells; the efficiency of stems cells to reproduce, and their long-term viability and stability are all still concerns about trials using dopaminergic cell transplants to treat Parkinson's.

First Steps

In the first step towards a direct cell replacement therapy for Parkinson's, the team reprogrammed astrocytes to dopaminergic neurons using three transcription factors ASCL1, LMX1B, and NURR1 delivered with a lentiviral vector.

The process is efficient, with about 18 percent of cells expressing markers of dopaminergic neurons after two weeks. The next closest conversion efficiency is approximately 9 percent, which was reported in another study.

The dopamine-producing neurons derived from astrocytes showed gene expression patterns and electrophysiolgical properties of midbrain dopaminergic neurons, and released dopamine when their cell membranes were depolarized.

The Penn team is now working to see if the same reprogramming process that converts astrocytes to dopamine-producing neurons in a dish can also work within a living brain experiments will soon be underway using gene therapy vectors to deliver the reprogramming factors directly to astrocytes in a monkey model of PD.


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Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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