Parkinson's: IPS stem cells transplanted into a patient's brain in Japan

This is the first in the world that gives hope to people with Parkinson's disease. On Friday, November 9th, researchers from Kyoto University, Japan, said they had successfully transplanted 2.4 million iPS stem cells into the left hemisphere of a patient with Parkinson's disease. "induced pluripotent stem cells" or, in French, induced pluripotent cells).

The operation, which took place last month, lasted three hours, says the medical team. The patient, a man in his fifties, was well tolerated. Now he will be under surveillance for two years. If there are no problems within six months, doctors will implant another 2.4 million stem cells, this time on the right side of the patient's brain.

Pluripotent stem cells

The second most common neurodegenerative disease of the nervous system after Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease affects about 200,000 people in France and more than one million in Europe: 8,000 new cases are reported each year in France. According to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, the world has 10 million patients with Parkinson's.

Characterized by a progressive loss of neurons in the gray nuclei of the brain, Parkinson's disease causes a gradual loss of control of movement and the onset of other motor symptoms such as tremor and limb stiffness. Currently, the available treatments "improve the symptoms, but without slowing the progression of the disease," says Parkinson's Disease Foundation.

This new treatment with iPS stem cells from healthy donors offers new hopes for patients. In fact, the latter have the particularity of being pluripotent: being transplanted in the brain, they are able to develop neurons that produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in the control of motor skills.

A clinical study on seven patients has been announced

This successful essay by Japanese scientists will probably not be the last one. Last July, Kyoto University announced that a clinical trial would be launched with seven participants aged between 50 and 69. "I greet patients for their courageous and determined participation," said Professor Jun Takahashi, quoted Friday by the NHK public television channel.

This clinical study is based on an experiment conducted on monkeys with stem cells of human origin and reported in an article in the journal Nature in August 2017. According to researchers, this transplant has improved primacy capacity with a form of Parkinson's movements . The survival of grafted cells, by injection into the primate brain, was observed for two years without any tumor appearance.

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