Stem cell research hopes to repair brain damage of Parkinson's disease

November 11, 2011, University of Melbourne

Australian scientists have developed a new technique using stem cells, in the hope to replace damaged cells in Parkinson's disease. The technique could be developed for application in other degenerative conditions.

Drs Clare Parish and Lachlan Thompson lead the research from the Florey Neuroscience Institutes and the University of Melbourne. They are members of the newly established Stem Cells Australia collaboration being launched at the University of Melbourne today.

Stem Cells Australia is a new $21m Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative bringing together Australia's leading stem cell scientists.

Led by internationally renowned stem cell expert Professor Martin Pera and administered by the University of Melbourne, the Initiative links Australia's leading experts in bioengineering, nanotechnology, , advanced molecular analysis and clinical research to solve some of the our biggest health challenges.

"Stem Cells Australia will not only play a major role in leading Australian research into stem cell science, it will help the Australian community to understand the impact of in this fast-paced and fascinating field," he said.

Opening Stem Cells Australia on behalf of Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr, ARC Professor Margaret Sheil said the Initiative would make an important contribution to life-changing research.

"It will enable the delivery of breakthroughs that will help ease suffering and save lives," Professor Sheil said.

Key areas of research include investigating the use of stem cells to rejuvenate and repair damaged and in organs such as the heart, brain and blood that are affected in conditions such as heart disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke and Leukemia.

In regards to Parkinson's disease there is a progressive and permanent loss of a group of dopamine-producing that form an essential pathway in the controlling movement.

Drs Parish and Thompson's respective research groups have developed a novel technique using stem cells to replace the dopamine-producing brain cells.

The first step of the technique is led by Dr Parish's team which has expertise in generating the dopamine brain cells that are missing in Parkinson's disease.

"By following what we know about brain development we have been able to re-create an environment in the culture dish that allows us to generate specific cell types that may be therapeutic," she said.

"A limitation of the procedure, however, is that it is inefficient. This means that only around 30 per cent of the cells become dopamine brain cells while the others may remain as stem cells. This poses significant risks in a transplantation setting because the stem cells may continue to grow and form tumours," she said.

Dr Lachlan Thompson's team is working on an innovative approach using a state of the art cell-sorting technology to solve this problem.

"Overall we have identified some interesting findings that help us to isolate the dopamine brain cells and discard the stem cells prior to transplantation," he said.

"It's a strategy that we hope will bring us a step closer to clinical trials for a stem cell based treatment for Parkinson's. The broader significance is that this novel approach will likely be applicable to the development of stem cell-based treatments for other neurological conditions such as stroke, motor neuron disease and Huntington's disease," he said.

"There is still a lot of basic research to do to develop this technology to a point where it would be safe to proceed with trials in patients, however, there's no reason to think that it couldn't happen within the next 5-10 years with the proper funding."

Stem Cells Australia is a collaboration with eight Australian research partners: The University of Melbourne, Monash University, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, The University of Queensland, University of NSW, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, CSIRO and Florey Neuroscience Institutes. Former Governor of Victoria Professor David de Kretser is the Chair of the Governance Committee.

Professor Martin Pera said one of the major assets of the unique multidisciplinary approach of Australia is that it will foster and train the next generation of Australian stem cell scientists, cementing Australia's position in the field.

"This collaboration will not only support excellence in stem cell research to address diseases that are hardest to treat, but will also guide public debate about the important ethical, legal and societal issues associated with stem ," he said.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Forces from fluid in the developing lung play an essential role in organ development

January 23, 2018
It is a marvel of nature: during gestation, multiple tissue types cooperate in building the elegantly functional structures of organs, from the brain's folds to the heart's multiple chambers. A recent study by Princeton researchers ...

Anemia discovery offers new targets to treat fatigue in millions

January 22, 2018
A new discovery from the University of Virginia School of Medicine has revealed an unknown clockwork mechanism within the body that controls the creation of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. The finding sheds light on iron-restricted ...

More surprises about blood development—and a possible lead for making lymphocytes

January 22, 2018
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) have long been regarded as the granddaddy of all blood cells. After we are born, these multipotent cells give rise to all our cell lineages: lymphoid, myeloid and erythroid cells. Hematologists ...

How metal scaffolds enhance the bone healing process

January 22, 2018
A new study shows how mechanically optimized constructs known as titanium-mesh scaffolds can optimize bone regeneration. The induction of bone regeneration is of importance when treating large bone defects. As demonstrated ...

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.