Stem cells to help study of Parkinson’s disease


Richard Wade-Martins of the Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre explained at the UK National Stem Cell Network (UKNSCN) 2010 Annual Scientific Conference in Nottingham, UK how his team will use the technique.

The technique will use skin samples to grow the brain cells, thought to be responsible for the onset of Parkinson’s disease, allowing these important neurons to be studied in detail.

Data will be gathered from over 1,000 patients with early stage of Parkinson’s and take small samples of skin tissue to grow special stem cells induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells).


Wade-Martins explained: “Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the UK and is set to become increasingly common as we live longer. iPS cells provide new and exciting opportunities to grow and study dopamine neurons from patients for the first time. This technology will prove to be extremely important in diseases which affect the brain because of its relative inaccessibility, it’s far easier to get a skin sample than a brain biopsy. Once we have neurons from patients, we can compare the functioning of cells taken from patients with the disease and those without to better understand why dopamine neurons die in patients with Parkinson’s.”


Over the next five years, the researchers will combine their stem cell work with the latest techniques in molecular genetics, protein science and brain imaging to develop ways of detecting the early development of Parkinson’s disease in individuals before symptoms arrive.