Stem Cell Treatments for Parkinson’s Disease

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Thomas B. Stoker


Parkinson’s disease (PD) manifests with a typical movement disorder, due to the loss of dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra. There are no disease-modifying treatments, and current management is centered on symptom control using predominantly dopaminergic drugs. While effective at improving the motor symptoms of PD, these treatments result in significant adverse effects, due to non-targeted and non-physiological delivery of dopamine to the brain. For many years, there has been interest in cell grafting as a potential means of restor­ing dopamine to the striatum in a physiological manner, which would theoreti­cally treat the symptoms of PD that are due to dopamine deficiency, without the motor and neuropsychiatric adverse effects that are seen with dopaminergic medications. A number of cell sources have been trialed in PD patients, but lack of efficacy, ethical and logistical barriers have meant that most of these do not offer useful treatment options. Stem cell-based treatments are emerging as the most promising approach for the development of a useful regenerative treatment that could be used in a large number of patients. Although progress in this field has been slow, a number of exciting clinical trials are now on the horizon, and there is genuine hope that stem cells will enter the clinic in the short- to medium-term future.


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Chapter 9