Parkinson`s brain cells `breakthrough`

Last Updated: Aug 24, 2011, 12:34 PM IST

London: Scientists claim to have for the first time generated stem cells from one of the most rapidly progressing forms of Parkinson`s, a breakthrough which could pave the way for effective drugs to halt the disease.

A team from the University of Edinburgh and the University of London used skin samples from a patient with the condition to create brain nerve cells, a development which it says could help determine why certain nerve cells die.

According to the scientists, the aim is to eventually find drugs that can prevent the death of these key cells --known as neurons -- that break down as a result of Parkinson`s disease, the `BBC" reported.

Tilo Kunath of Edinburgh University said: "Current drugs for Parkinson`s alleviate symptoms of the condition. Modelling the disease in a dish with real Parkinson`s neurons enables us to test drugs that may halt or reverse the condition.

"This study provides an ideal platform to gain fresh insight into the condition, and opens a new area of research to discover disease-modifying drugs."

In fact, the neuron cells were generated from a patient with a form of Parkinson`s that progresses rapidly and can be diagnosed in people in their early 30s.

People with this form of Parkinson`s have twice as many of the genes that produce a protein, alpha synuclein, compared with the general population. Although this form of Parkinson`s is rare, the protein involved is linked to virtually all types of the disease.

Team member Dr Michael Devine added: "Understanding such a progressive form of the disease will give us insight into different types of Parkinson`s. As this type of Parkinson`s progresses rapidly it will also make it easier to pick up the effects of drugs tested to prevent nerve cells targeted by the disease from dying."

Experts have hailed the findings published in the latest edition of the `Nature Communications` journal.

Dr Kieran Breen from Parkinson`s UK said: "Although the genetic mutation that leads to this progressive form of Parkinson`s is rare, this exciting study has the potential to bring about a huge breakthrough in Parkinson`s research."

PTI