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Reprogramming Adult Stem Cells in Parkinson’s Study

Mature Cells Reprogrammed to Act Like Stem Cells in Parkinson's Study

(April 11, 2008 - Insidermedicine) An animal model of Parkinson's disease has been successfully treated via transplantation of mature cells that have been reprogrammed to act like embryonic stem cells, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Here are some recommendations for initiating treatment for Parkinson's disease from the American Academy of Neurology:

•    Consider initial symptomatic treatment with selegiline in order to confer mild, symptomatic benefit prior to the institution of dopaminergic therapy.

•    Use either levodopa or a dopamine agonist in patients who require the initiation of dopaminergic treatment. The choice depends on the relative impact of improving motor disability (better with levodopa) compared with the lessening of motor complications (better with dopamine agonists).

•    Consider using either an immediate-release or sustained-release preparation for patients in whom levodopa treatment is being instituted.

Researchers out of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge induced pluripotency in mouse fibroblasts by using retroviruses to insert four genes: Oct4, Sox2, Klf4, and c-Myc. They then implanted these induced pluripotent stem cells into the brains of fetal mice as well as into the midbrains of adult rat models of Parkinson's disease.

The implanted cells migrated into the surrounding tissue and gave rise to mature, functioning brain cells. The cells transplanted into the midbrain of the rat models of Parkinson's disease gave rise to mature dopamine neurons and improved the animals' symptoms.

Today's research demonstrates that mature cells can be reprogrammed to act like stem cells, which upon implantation give rise to functioning dopamine neurons in the midbrain. In humans, such a strategy could provide a transplantation-based treatment for Parkinson's disease that overcomes issues of immunorejection, since the transplanted cells differentiate into mature cells containing the host's DNA.

For Insidermedicine in Depth, I'm Dr. Susan Sharma.