Treating PD patients with their own cells

Eight PARKINSON’S DISEASE patients are waiting patiently for the Food and Drug Administration to give the final nod of approval to see if a new stem cell technology will help them.  Jeanne Loring from the Scripps Institute has collected cells from the skin of each of the patients and cultured them to grow into induced pluripotent stem cells, which she then induced to become dopamine producing neurons.  The new neurons will be transplanted into the brains of the patients from whom they were taken–an autologus transfer, which should not require doses of immunosuppressant’s.  If the new neurons begin making dopamine, then perhaps this will become a long-term treatment to slow the progress of PARKINSON’S DISEASE.  Animal studies are underway, and a meeting with the FDA is scheduled for January.



Depression – cause, effect or just part of PARKINSON’S DISEASE

Albert Yang, M.D., Ph.D. a professor at the Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan has been working to understand the relationship between depression and PARKINSON’S DISEASE.  Studies show that depression often occurs before symptoms of PARKINSON’S, and about 40% of people with PARKINSON’S report depression and mood disorders. He and his colleagues analyzed the data from 4,634 people with depression and found that they were 3 times more likely to develop PARKINSON’S DISEASE than the control population that had not been depressed for at least 10 years.  He does not say that depression may cause PARKINSON’S, but rather that people who have depression that does not respond to usual treatment may require more aggressive treatment and more careful observation.

Psychiatric News, December 6, 2013: DOI:10.1176/


Just say “AHHH”

Dr. Max Little from the Parkinson’s Voice Initiative may have found a simple and unique way to help diagnose PARKINSON’S DISEASE.  He notes that people with PARKINSON’S not only develop stiffness, rigidity and tremor in their bodies, but also in their vocal cords that affects their speech production.  Using some sophisticated equipment and computer analysis, patients are asked to say “ahhh” and record their voice.  They results of these recordings have shown a 99% accuracy of prediction between healthy individuals and people with PARKINSON’S DISEAE.  The team of researchers is now working on using conventional and mobile telephones to record the “ahhhhs” and make an analysis.  If they are successful in their endeavors, there may be an economical and accurate early prediction of the disease.


Induced aging in cells may predict the future

A new method to study what happens in aging cells may help researchers better understand changes that occur in neurodegenerative diseases.  Scientists are able to take cells from the skin and culture them to become stem cells and then further inducing them to become neurons or other types of cells.  But induced pluripotent stem cells mature slowly, just as cells would normally mature.  To speed the process, the researchers added a protein called progerin and after a short exposure, the cells demonstrated the age related behaviors of old cells.

The team then took skin cells from people with PARKINSON’S DISEASE, cultured them into stem cells then engineered them to become the type of defective neuron found in PARKINSON’S brains.  They then exposed these neurons to progerin and watched them reproduce all the typical disease related symptoms, including mitochondrial defects, neuronal degeneration and cell death.  It was like observing PARKINSON’S DISEASE in a petri dish.

This technique may enable researchers to develop screening methods that could help predict the onset of PARKINSON’S DISEASE and also lead to early intervention to slow or even eliminate the progression by development of new drugs.

Miller et al. Human iPSC-based Modeling of Late-Onset Disease via Progerin-induced aging. Cell Stem Cell, December 2013


All reviews by Marcia McCall

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