Cell Research Hopes to Repair Brain Damage of Parkinson's disease Friday, 11 November 2011
scientists have developed a new technique using stem cells, in the hope to
replace damaged cells in Parkinson's disease. The technique could be developed
for application in other degenerative conditions.
Parish and Lachlan
Thompson lead the research from the Florey Neuroscience Institutes and the
University of Melbourne. They are members of the newly established Stem Cells Australia
collaboration being launched at the University of Melbourne today.
Cells Australia is a new $21m Australian Research Council Special Research
Initiative bringing together Australia's leading stem cell scientists.
Led by internationally
renowned stem cell expert Professor Martin Pera and administered by the
University of Melbourne, the Initiative links Australia's leading experts in
bioengineering, nanotechnology, stem cell biology, advanced molecular analysis
and clinical research to solve some of the our biggest health challenges.
"Stem Cells Australia will not only play a
major role in leading Australian research into stem cell science, it will help
the Australian community to understand the impact of scientific breakthroughs
in this fast-paced and fascinating field," he said.
Stem Cells Australia on behalf of Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr, ARC
Chief Executive Officer Professor Margaret Sheil said the Initiative would make
an important contribution to life-changing research.
"It will enable the delivery of stem cell
research breakthroughs that will help ease suffering and save lives," Professor Sheil said.
areas of research include investigating the use of stem cells to rejuvenate and
repair damaged and diseased cells in organs such as the heart, brain and blood
that are affected in conditions such as heart disease, Parkinson's disease,
stroke and leukaemia.
regards to Parkinson's disease there is a progressive and permanent loss of a
group of dopamine-producing brain cells that form an essential pathway in the
brain circuitry controlling movement.
Parish and Thompson's respective research groups have developed a novel
technique using stem cells to replace the dopamine-producing brain cells.
first step of the technique is led by Dr Parish's team which has expertise in
generating the dopamine brain cells that are missing in Parkinson's disease.
"By following what we know about brain
development we have been able to re-create an environment in the culture dish
that allows us to generate specific cell types that may be therapeutic," she said.
"A limitation of the procedure, however,
is that it is inefficient. This means that only around 30 per cent of the cells
become dopamine brain cells while the others may remain as stem cells. This
poses significant risks in a transplantation setting because the stem cells may
continue to grow and form tumours," she said.
Lachlan Thompson's team is working on an innovative approach using a state of
the art cell-sorting technology to solve this problem.
"Overall we have identified some
interesting findings that help us to isolate the dopamine brain cells and
discard the stem cells prior to transplantation," he said.
"It's a strategy that we hope will bring
us a step closer to clinical trials for a stem cell based treatment for
Parkinson's. The broader significance is that this novel approach will likely
be applicable to the development of stem cell-based treatments for other
neurological conditions such as stroke, motor neuron disease and Huntington's
"There is still a lot of basic research to
do to develop this technology to a point where it would be safe to proceed with
trials in patients, however, there's no reason to think that it couldn't happen
within the next 5-10 years with the proper funding."
Cells Australia is a collaboration with eight Australian research partners: The
University of Melbourne, Monash University, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of
Medical Research, The University of Queensland, University of NSW, Victor Chang
Cardiac Research Institute, CSIRO and Florey Neuroscience Institutes. Former
Governor of Victoria Professor David de Kretser is the Chair of the Governance
Martin Pera said one of the major assets of the unique multidisciplinary
approach of Stem Cells Australia is that it will foster and train the next
generation of Australian stem cell scientists, cementing Australia's position
in the field.
"This collaboration will not only support
excellence in stem cell research to address diseases that are hardest to treat,
but will also guide public debate about the important ethical, legal and
societal issues associated with stem cell science," he said.