SBP research on Parkinson's disease
Researchers believe that Parkinson’s disease may be more amenable to stem cell therapies than many neurodegenerative conditions because the basic defect is defined. A specific group of brain cells—those in the substantia nigra region that produce dopamine—dies. SBP Professor Evan Snyder is working on a study designed to replace these particular cells in an animal model.
Dopamine regulates body movements, and when levels drop due to cell death, motor irregularities result—the tremors and shakes that are the hallmarks of Parkinson’s. Patients can be treated in the early stages with supplementary levodopa (L-DOPA), which helps to replace dopamine. The treatment loses efficacy over time, however. The Snyder laboratory has transferred human neural stem cells into animals with a model of Parkinson’s that most closely resembles the human disease. The cells appear to survive and produce dopamine. Perhaps even more importantly, the cells protect the animal’s own dopamine cells from degenerating, restoring their normal cellular balance and preserving the animal's own circuits. Animals receiving the stem cells display reduced symptoms.