Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that causes tremor
Parkinson’s disease is caused by loss of brain cells in a specific region of the brain called the substantia nigra. The neurons in this area of the brain contain dopamine, and as those nerve cells die, the levels of dopamine in the brain decrease. Consequently, patients with Parkinson’s disease often take medications that improve or accentuate dopamine signaling in the brain. These drugs can be effective for a certain period of time, but eventually, the condition will overcome the ability of these drugs to improve dopamine signaling. There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but researchers hope stem cells may be the answer.
Since dopamine drugs have worked reasonably well to control the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, researchers assumed that replacing dopamine cells in the brain would help treat Parkinson’s disease. In a way, it did. When people with Parkinson’s disease received transplants of stem cells intended to produce dopamine, some of them experienced dramatic improvements in motor function. However, patients still had several other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease such as fatigue, bowel problems, sexual problems, and mood disorders. Neuroscience researchers realized Parkinson’s is not just about a loss of dopamine. It turns out, that while stem cells can help
As a result of this groundbreaking work, researchers are now planning and implementing experiments in which Parkinson’s disease patients will receive stem cell transplants containing both dopamine cells and seroton in cells. If effective, we will be one step closer to a new and powerful treatment for Parkinson’s disease.