Scientists Say Cure for Parkinson’s Disease Right under Their Noses

By Peter J. Smith

SYDNEY, Australia, June 12, 2008 ( - New research on stem-cell therapy shows scientists have found that the cure for Parkinson’s disease may lie right under one’s nose - or rather, in it.

Researchers from Griffith University have published a study in the journal Stem Cells that has found adult stem-cells harvested from the noses of Parkinson’s patients developed into dopamine-producing brain cells upon being transplanted into the brain of a lab rat.

Professor Alan Mackay-Sim said researchers simulated Parkinson’s symptoms in rats by creating lesions on one side of the rat’s brain to imitate the damage Parkinson’s disease wreaks on the human brain. The lesions caused the rats to run in circles; however when stem-cells from the noses of Parkinson’s patients were injected into the affected area of the brain, the rats re-acquired the ability to run in a straight line.

According to Mackay-Sim, the evidence showed the injected stem-cells had differentiated into "dopamine-producing neurons influenced by being in the environment of the brain."

Mackay-Sim explained that, like all stem-cells, these adult stem-cells from the olfactory nerve in the nose are "naëve," since they have not yet differentiated into any particular type of cells.

"They can still be influenced by the environment they are put into. In this case we transplanted them into the brain, where they were directed to give rise to dopamine producing brain cells," he added.

"Significantly, none of the transplants led to formation of tumours or teratomas in the host rats as has occurred after embryonic stem-cell transplantation in a similar model."

The research team made their latest discovery by building upon the groundbreaking work of Mackay-Sim, whose team in 2005 revealed they had found stem-cells from the nose have properties superior to embryonic stem-cells, and had developed them successfully into heart, nerve, liver, and brain cells.

Mackay-Sim’s team had developed a technique that extracts stem-cells from the olfactory nerves of patients in a harmless 10 minutes procedure. Unlike unethical embryonic stem-cells - which have yielded no cures despite the investment of hundreds of millions of research dollars - these stem-cells from a patient’s nose do not develop into tumours, are compatible with a patient’s immune system and therefore do not require dangerous immuno-suppressant drugs.

Mackay-Sim’s latest discovery in the little-recognized field of adult stem-cell research is the work of the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research, part of Griffith University’s Eskitis Institute for Cell and Molecular Therapies.

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