Stem cell treatment for Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson´´s disease is a brain disorder that occurs when certain nerve cells in the brain die or become damaged. The normal function of these nerve cells is the production of Dopamine, a vital chemical which is responsible of our body´´s smooth and well coordinated movements. The lack of Dopamine as a result of damaged nerve cells can cause the Parkinson´´s symptoms of shaking (tremors), stiffness of the muscles, freeze ups, balance difficulties and slowness of movement.
To treat Parkinson´´s disease we apply a unique procedure, specifically designed for Parkinson´´s patients, in which we implant adult stem cells extracted from the human retina, called “Human Retinal Pigment Epithelial cells”(HRPE) by injection. These special cells have the quality of producing Dopamine, which the lack of this chemical, causes the symptoms of Parkinson´´s disease.
Another important advantage of these cells is that they have no immunosuppressive reactions and therefore patients do not need to take additional drugs during the treatment.
The treatment includes the implantation of HRPE cells, along with a daily cocktail of medications that “fertilize”the damaged area, helping the cells to survive and to keep on renewing themselves.
While the treatment cannot completely remove all symptoms of the disease, it can greatly reduce the tremors, decrease muscle tension, improve continuity of movement and balance, increase muscle strength, decrease freeze ups, etc.
In June 2006 we performed the first published successful stem cell treatment for Parkinson´´s worldwide, of an American patient who came to our hospital at a very advanced stage of Parkinson´´s disease.
So far, more than 50 Parkinson´´s patients have been treated with HRPE stem cells from Peking University´´s Stem Cells Research Center (“Beida”) and various other cooperating hospitals. All of the patients showed increasing dopamine metabolism, and the conditions of all the patients improved after the transplantation (usually the improvement occurred one week after the injection). The first clinical trial was performed in 2004, but long term follow-up is still under investigation (at least 1-3 years of follow-up), so the treatment is still under careful control, especially in the selection of suitable patients.
Written by Dr. Like Wu, Dr. Xiaojuan Wang