Researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine who thought they were studying connective tissue cell protein received quite a shock when they instead stumbled upon a treatment to eradicate the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in mice. Not only that, but the treatment could potentially be beneficial in a variety of conditions that call for the need to replace damaged tissue: diabetes, spinal cord injuries, even heart disease.
The research involved a siRNA technique, in which scientists grew fibroblasts (a type of connective tissue cell) in petri dishes while silencing the protein PTB. After several weeks, they were shocked to realize the majority of fibroblasts had converted into neurons.
Lead author of the research, Xiang-Dong Fu, explained, “Researchers around the world have tried many ways to generate neurons in the lab, using stem cells and other means, so we can study them better, as well as to use them to replace lost neurons in neurodegenerative diseases. The fact that we could produce so many neurons in such a relatively easy way came as a big surprise.”
The study group then decided to test their new theory on Parkinson’s disease in mice, finding that it completely restored movement functionality for the remainder of the mice’s lifetime – even those with an advanced case of the disease.
Of course, the process to see if these results transfer to humans takes time and caution to ensure safety, but for those struggling with the disease and other neurodegenerative conditions, it’s cause for hope.
As Fu explains, “It’s my dream to see this through to clinical trials, to test this approach as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease, but also many other diseases where neurons are lost, such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases and stroke. And dreaming even bigger – what if we could target PTB to correct defects in other parts of the brain, to treat things like inherited brain defects?”
As we await the next steps in this exciting Parkinson’s research, you can always rely on CareWorks Health Services for professional, highly skilled care for those with Parkinson’s disease. Some of the many ways we can help include:
- Meal planning and preparation
- Light household chores
- Shopping and other errands
- Personal care, including bathing/showering, getting dressed, etc.
- Safe, accompanied transportation
- And so much more