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Stem Cells from Adult Nose Tissue Used to Cure Parkinson’s Disease in Rats

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Scientists have for the first time used adult human stem cells to “cure” Parkinson’s disease in rats. The finding might someday also lead to therapy prompting a full recovery in human patients for what is considered one of the most severe neurodegenerative diseases, and one that presently has no cure.

The study, published in the current issue of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine, details how a team of researchers working in Germany at Bielefeld University (BU) and Dresden University of Technology was able to produce mature neurons in the laboratory using inferior turbinate stem cells (ITSCs). ITSCs are stem cells taken from tissue that would generally be discarded after an adult patient undergoes sinus surgery.

The team then tested how the ITSCs would behave when transplanted into a group of rats with Parkinson’s disease. Prior to transplantation, the animals showed severe motor and behavioral deficiencies. However, 12 weeks after receiving the ITSCs, the cells had migrated within the animals’ brains and functional ability was not only fully restored, but significant behavioral recovery was witnessed, too. Interestingly regeneration of the endogenous dopaminergic system was observed also. In another positive sign, no tumors were found in any of the animals after the transplantations, something that also has been a concern in stem cell therapy.

“Due to their easy accessibility and the resulting possibility of an autologous transplantation approach, ITSCs represent a promising cell source for regenerative medicine,” said BU’s Barbara Kaltschmidt, Ph.D., who led the study along with Alexander Storch, M.D., of Dresden University of Technology. “The lack of ethical concerns associated with human embryonic stem cells is a plus, too.” Joint first authors are Janine Müller M.Sc. from BU jointly with Christiana Ossig, M.D., from Dresden.