Embryonic Stem Cells Cure Parkinson's-Like Disease in Mice

In September, U.S. researchers reported in Nature Biotechnology that they had used stem cells to cure mice who were bred to suffer from a Parkinson’s-like condition.

Researchers at the Stem Cell and Tumor Biology Laboratory took cells from the tails of the mice and used that to clone embryos. Stem cells from the embryos were then taken and altered to grow into a type of brain cell that the mice were missing. That tissue was then implanted into the brains of the mice.

The researchers reported that the Parkinson’s-like conditions in the mice disappeared after the tissue implant.

Dr. Lorzen Studer, lead research on the study, told the BBC that this research provided a proof of concept that embryonic stem cells could be used in this way, but that there are still many hurdles to overcome before this could be tested on human beings (not the least of which, in this case, would be the creation and use of embryonic stem cells which is still the subject of much ethical hand wringing).

Studer added that,

We don’t know if we would be able to do the same thing in humans — there is some research, which is controversial — that suggests that it might actually be impossible.

A similar study in 2002 also produced positive results when stem cells from mouse embryos were altered to produce brain tissue and then implanted into rats. That study, conducted at the University of Minnesota, showed that the transplanted stem cells grew into neurons in the brains of the rat and improved — though didn’t completely erase — the Parkinson’s-like symptoms suffered by the rats.


Mouse cloned to cure Parkinson’s. The BBC, September 21, 2003.

Embryonic Mouse Stem Cells Reduce Symptoms in Model for Parkinson’s Disease. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, June 25, 2003.

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