Researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, who believed they were examining connective tissue cell protein, got quite a surprise when they instead stumbled upon a therapy to eradicate the outward symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in mice. Not only that, but the therapy may be beneficial in various conditions that call for the need to replace damaged tissue, such as diabetes, spinal cord injuries, perhaps even cardiovascular disease.
The research involved a siRNA technique, in which scientists grew fibroblasts (a kind 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 study, 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 research team then decided to test their new theory on Parkinson’s disease in mice, finding that it completely restored movement and functionality for the remainder of the mice’s lifetime – even those with an advanced case of the disease.
As you can imagine, the process to determine if these results transfer to humans will take an extended period of time and extreme care to be certain of 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 wait for the subsequent steps in this fascinating breakthrough, you can depend on Midnight Sun Home Care for professional, highly skilled home care for those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Examples of the different ways we're able to assist include: