New cell transplant trial to start in Japan

Researchers in Japan have announced clinical trials of a stem cell-based treatment for Parkinson's will start this month.

The announcement follows positive results from pre-clinical work using a primate model of Parkinson's, which was also carried out in Japan.

The clinical trial marks the first cell transplant trial for Parkinson's to use dopamine-producing brain cells made from stem cells. However, it is not the first stem cell trial for Parkinson's, which is, in fact, happening in Australia.

Research leading up to the clinical trial

Last year researchers at Japan's Kyoto University published results showing cell transplants were able to improve movement symptoms in macaque monkey model of Parkinson's.

They successfully used a type of stem cell, called induced pluripotent stem cells, to make dopamine-producing brain cells, which they then transplanted into the brain. Brain scans showed that the cells were functioning like normal dopamine-producing brain cells and were successfully producing dopamine.

The team also published results showing they had successfully used the principles of matching for organ donation to select the best brain cells for transplantation. This reduced the immune response to these transplants, which is important for ensuring the survival of the transplanted cells.

Dr Beckie Port, Research Communications Manager, comments:

"We firmly believe stem cell research has the potential to reverse the symptoms of Parkinson's.

"While there are still questions as to if these transplant therapies will improve non-motor symptoms of Parkinson's, such as problems with thinking, memory, pain, and anxiety, this is an exciting study that will start to test the extent to which cell transplants can help.

"We will eagerly be awaiting the outcome of the trial and hope that it will contribute to more research in this area, and future opportunities for those in the UK to take part."