New Cell Conversion Demonstrated as Possible Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

Abigail Smith, Staff Reporter

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet, a major Swedish medical university, believe they have found a conversion therapy for Parkinson’s Disease, they have made great progress in search to help people with Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s Disease is a disorder of the central nervous system that affects a person’s control of body movement and often includes uncontrolled tremors, stiffness, and lack of coordination.

The neurotransmitter dopamine is responsible for relaying messages that plan and control body movement. The new treatment should create new pathways.

According the Parkinson’s Association of the Carolinas, more than 60,000 cases of Parkinson’s are diagnosed in the United States every year, with over 1 million patients at any given time. This disease can last for years or for a person’s whole life. Hopefully this new discovery will actually help the ones who have this disease and maybe one day even cure this disease all the way so nobody will have this. Many, even thousands of people suffer with this disease that is or might be painful for them. It will start in their hands and eventually, but sometimes slowly, go through other parts of their body.

A cure would help ease the suffering of an estimated seven to ten million people worldwide, not just for those with the disease, but for their families.

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have been manipulating the gene expression of non-neuronal cells in the brain, they were able to use transplanted genes on glial (grey matter) cells produce new dopamine neurons. Dopamine neurons degenerate and die in the brains of people suffering with Parkinson’s.

The researchers used a variety of factors like proteins that can alter the gene expression, researchers changed astrocytes in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease into functioning dopamine neurons. The results were great progress of dopamine in the mouse brain, showing  as a significant decrease in symptoms of the disease. Human trials have not yet been started.

Professor Ernest Arenas, at the Karolinska Institute stated “We think in the future, it may be possible to deliver genes and small molecules, rather than cells, to replace the dopamine neurons lost in the Parkinson’s Disease.”

Medical research in Austria, just announced in late April, also shows new uses for an old drug that may help Parkinson’s patients.  The drug is called apomorphine, and helps solve the “downtime” when traditional drugs stop working.

“If a person with Parkinson’s disease can reduce their ‘off’ times, that can have a great impact on their everyday life,” said study author Regina Katzenschlager, MD, of Danube Hospital, affiliated with the Medical University of Vienna, Austria. “In some patients in the trial, the insecurity of unpredictable periods of incapacity was completely alleviated.”