, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 353-385

Embryonic and adult stem cells as a source for cell therapy in Parkinson’s disease

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The rationale behind the use of cells as therapeutic modalities for neurodegenerative diseases in general, and in Parkinson’s disease (PD) in particular, is that they will improve patient’s functioning by replacing the damaged cell population. It is reasoned that these cells will survive, grow neurites, establish functional synapses, integrate best and durably with the host tissue mainly in the striatum, renew the impaired wiring, and lead to meaningful clinical improvement. To increase the generation of dopamine, researchers have already transplanted non-neuronal cells, without any genetic manipulation or after introduction of genes such as tyrosine hydroxylase, in animal models of PD. Because these cells were not of neuronal origin, they developed without control, did not integrate well into the brain parenchyma, and their survival rates were low. Clinical experiments using cell transplantation as a therapy for PD have been conducted since the 1980s. Most of these experiments used fetal dopaminergic cells originating in the ventral mesencephalic tissue obtained from fetuses. Although it was shown that the transplanted cells survived and some patients benefited from this treatment, others suffered from severe dyskinesia, probably caused by the graft’s excessive and uncontrolled production and release of dopamine. It is now recognized that cell-replacement strategy will be effective in PD only if the transplanted cells have the same abilities, such as dopamine synthesis and control release, reuptake, and metabolizing dopamine, as the original dopaminergic neurons. Recent studies on embryonic and adult stem cells have demonstrated that cells are able to both self-renew and produce differentiated tissues, including dopaminergic neurons. These new methods offer real hope for tissue replacement in a wide range of diseases, especially PD. In this review we summarize the evidence of dopaminergic neuron generation from embryonic and adult stem cells, and discuss their application for cell therapy in PD.