Stem cell therapy and Parkinson’s disease

Around 1 in 500 people are affected by Parkinson’s disease in the UK[1]
Parkinson’s is most common in people over the age of 50[1]
Around 5% of people who develop Parkinson's first experience symptoms before the age of 40[1]
Parkinson's disease is named after the doctor who first recognised the condition, British surgeon Dr James Parkinson, in 1817[2]
Men are 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s than women[3]
It is estimated that Parkinson’s diagnosis will increase by a fifth by 2025[3]

Around 1 in
people in the UK
are affected by Parkinson’s disease

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s is a progressive disease that targets the nervous system. It damages brain cells, causing a deficiency of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Symptoms occur when dopamine levels in the nervous system drop by 80%. These include tremor, muscular rigidity, slow movement and poor balance – mostly in people over the age of 50.

At present there is no known cause of Parkinson’s disease and no cure. However, treatments are available to alleviate the symptoms and improve quality of life, as symptoms generally become worse over time. Although Parkinson’s disease isn’t fatal, the weakening of the body can make sufferers more vulnerable to developing serious and life-threatening infections.

Stem cell therapy research

Breakthroughs in stem cell research have started to provide insights into prospective stem cell therapies in latest years.

Parkinson’s UK has invested more than £3 million into state-of-the-art stem cell research. Part of the investment involved a study with the California-based International Stem Cell Corporation (ISCO) who conducted a clinical trial on 12 individuals with Parkinson’s disease – mild to severe[4].

During the test, physicians implanted substitute brain cells, called neural precursor cells, into the brains of patients. These cells are expected to mature into the kind of neurons that are destroyed by Parkinson’s disease.

Commenting on this trial, Claire Bale, Head of Research Communications at Parkinson’s UK, said:

“Stem cells carry true hope as a future therapy for the 127,000 individuals living with the disorder in the UK.
With all clinical trials, ensuring that the treatment is safe and effective is paramount and along with the international research community we will be watching the progress of the trial very closely. If successful this could be the beginning to further, much larger studies with stem cells – taking us closer to a new potential treatment for Parkinson’s.”

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