Australia is the first country to conduct the revolutionary human clinical trial to treat Parkinson’s disease using stem cell injection. The preliminary trial will begin in three months at the Royal Melbourne Hospital based on the approval from Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia.
Parkinson’s Effect On Patients
It is a neurodegenerative disorder which will slowly affect the body movement of the patient. The symptoms include rigidity and stiffness of muscles, tremors, change in speech etc., and the impact differs based on various stages of the condition. These symptoms are due to the gradual degeneration of nerve cells in the mid brain, responsible for body movements. As the disease progress, patient’s normal life deteriorate.
Parkinson’s is the world’s second most common neurodegenerative disorder that affected over seven million people. It mainly occurs in older people between the age of 50 and 65 but can also affect younger adults. Though the causes are unknown, genetics and exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides, carbon monoxide and manganese metal also play a vital role. Treatment can control the symptoms only to certain extent but some symptoms like brain tremor, stroke, inflammation, excess fluid buildup in the brain etc., do not respond well.
Stem Cell Therapy For Parkinson’s Disease (PD)
Currently, there is no cure for PD. The existing treatment can only alleviate the early symptoms but lose effect if the disease progresses. The stem cell therapy proposed by International Stem Cell Corp (ISCO) is designed to treat the root cause of the condition and received approval for human trials from the Therapeutics Goods Administration of Australia.
According to this trial, the therapy will address the loss of neurons responsible for producing dopamine. As dopamine reduces, the symptoms like tremors, slurred speech, stiffness, swallowing difficulty etc., occur. The ISCO uses unfertilized egg cells that are slightly immature and inject them into the patient so that they can finish the development inside the brain and create the required neurons. This in turn produces enough dopamine and controls the symptoms.
Based on animal studies, it is known that unfertilized egg cells are capable of producing stem cells with desired function. It is proved that some of the neural stem cells derived from the egg cells can turn into dopamine producing neurons while the rest remain as neural stem cells.
Perks of this trial:
- Dual action – The stem cells create lost neurons as well as reduced inflammation; thereby could be a possible cure.
- Only unfertilized egg cells are used which rules out the ethical objection of killing embryos (embryonic stem cells).
- Some injected cells turn into neurons while the rest remain as neural stem cells, sustaining for future use.
- This therapy inspires the use of stem cells for other neurodegenerative conditions such as ALS, Lou Gehrig disease etc.
Clinical Trial For Parkinson’s Disease
ISCO will recruit about 12 patients for the Phase I and IIa trials. In these trials, the doctors will insert the stem cells into the patients and check the efficiency of this therapy. According to reports, the trial is expected to begin in the early 2016. This is the world’s first human trial that got approval for Parkinson’s using unfertilized egg cells. If it works as expected, it could fulfill the need of millions of patients suffering from PD.