Yale Receives $2.4 Million Grant for Stem Cell Research Related To Parkinson's Disease

Yale has received a $2.4 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for stem cell research related to Parkinson’s Disease.

The researchers will investigate whether human neural stem cells can cure experimental Parkinson’s disease in monkeys. A selective neurotoxin, MPTP, destroys dopamine cells, causing the muscle rigidity, lack of coordination, difficulty moving and tremors that are characteristic of the disease.

The lead investigator, D. Eugene Redmond, professor of psychiatry and neurosurgery at Yale School of Medicine, said human neural stem cells are primordial and uncommitted, can be propagated in large numbers and then safely differentiated into the necessary dopamine-producing neurons.

“The human neural stem cells migrate to populate developing or degenerating brain regions, perhaps allowing a more functionally correct and effective reconstruction,” Redmond said.

Pilot studies now show successful integration of human neural stem cells in the brain of fetal, neonatal, infant and adult monkeys for at least one month. Dopamine depleted adult monkeys showed graft-derived new cell growth and appropriate migration from the site of injection to dopamine-depleted areas.

The project will test whether human neural stem cells will survive, differentiate and integrate in the brain of normal adult monkeys without immunological rejection or harmful overgrowth, and whether they eliminate MPTP-induced parkinsonism and are distributed to areas where the dopamine neurons are injured.

The researchers will trace the functional integration of the human neural cells by using genetic markers, immunohistochemistry and multi-synaptic tract tracing.

The project will be carried out in collaboration with scientists from Harvard Medical School, the University of Colorado and the St. Kitts Biomedical Research Foundation.

“These studies will advance our understanding of the neurobiology and safety of human neural stem cells in a well established, clinically relevant primate model of Parkinson’s disease, and, if successful, support safe clinical studies in patients with Parkinson’s disease in the future,” Redmond said. “The results will also advance understanding of useful methods for studying and treating a broad range of neurodegenerative, genetic and traumatic conditions of the nervous system.”

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