The early stem cell experiment, which was meant to test whether the procedure is safe, appears to have succeeded at that goal.
The trial included 12 people with Parkinson’s, a debilitating progressive disease characterized by a shortage of dopamine, and was run by BlueRock Therapeutics, a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical giant Bayer. The lab-made neurons were implanted for a year before results were taken, and as researchers told attendees of the International Congress for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder in Copenhagen at the end of August, the implanted cells seem to have survived — and, in a particularly exciting twist, there are indications that they may be reducing the patients’ symptoms, too.
Brain scans from the experiment’s subjects show, the report notes, both an increase in dopamine cells and a decrease in times when the patients felt “off” or incapacitated by their symptoms. As Reuters noted, the study’s leaders told the Copenhagen conference that the “off time” was lower for those patients who had been given higher doses of the experimental stell-cell neurons.
The goal is that [the lab-grown cells] form synapses and talk to other cells as if they were from the same person,” she said. “What’s so interesting is that you can deliver these cells and they can start talking to the host.”
But according to Roger Barker, a University of Cambridge Parkinson’s expert who was not involved in the study, the current results are a “bit disappointing.