Scientists Closer to Cure for Parkinson’s Thanks to Adult Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 9, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Scientists Closer to Cure for Parkinson’s Thanks to Adult Stem Cell Research

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 9
, 2008

Sydney, Australia ( — Adult stem cell research, for the pro-life community, is ethically superior to embryonic stem cell research because it doesn’t involve the destruction of human life. Scientists at Griffith University in Australia are advancing the notion that its effectiveness is superior as well.

The researchers published an article on Friday in the medical journal Stem Cells showing that the use of adult stem cells may be getting closer to a cure, or at least an effective treatment, for Parkinson’s.

Their new studies show adult stem cells from a patient’s own nose could treat their condition.

The paper showed the finding that adult stem cells harvested from the noses of Parkinson’s patients gave rise to dopamine-producing brain cells when transplanted into the brain of a rat.

That’s important because the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as loss of muscle control, are caused by degeneration of cells that produce the essential chemical dopamine in the brain.

Current drug therapies replace dopamine in the brain but they frequently become less effective with prolonged use.

Professor Alan Mackay-Sim said researchers simulated the conditions of Parkinson’s in rats and then injected them with adult stem cells taken from the noses of patients.

Originally, the rats ran in circles after the simulated Parkinson’s, but the adult stem cells injections stopped that.

"When stem cells from the nose of Parkinson’s patients were cultured and injected into the damaged area the rats re-acquired the ability to run in a straight line," he said. "All animals transplanted with the human cells had a dramatic reduction in the rate of rotation within just 3 weeks."

Mackay-Sim also indicated the cells did not have the same kinds of problems as the use of embryonic stem cells.

"Significantly, none of the transplants led to formation of tumors or teratomas in the host rats as has occurred after embryonic stem cell transplantation in a similar model," he added.

He also said using the patient’s own stem cells instead of embryonic ones avoids the problem of the immune system rejecting the injection of the cells.

The adult stem cells from the nose did the trick because they have not yet differentiated.

"They can still be influenced by the environment they are put into. In this case we transplanted them into the brain, where they were directed to give rise to dopamine producing brain cells," Professor Mackay-Sim said.

Dr. David Prentice, a former biology professor at Indiana State University who is now a fellow at the Family Research Council, told the report shows excellent progress.

"Our Aussie friends have moved their adult stem cell work forward," he said.

"This is the same group that previously showed human olfactory mucosal stem cells could form cell types from each of the primary germ layers (i.e., one of the hallmarks of a "pluripotent" stem cell)," he explained.

Prentice said he learned the publishing of the paper was held up by some in the Australian medical community who doubted adult stem cells could have the same or better effectiveness as embryonic ones.