From bench to bed: the potential of stem cells for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease
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- Morizane, A., Li, JY. & Brundin, P. Cell Tissue Res (2008) 331: 323. doi:10.1007/s00441-007-0541-0
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Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the most common movement disorder. The neuropathology is characterized by the loss of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta. Transplants of fetal/embryonic midbrain tissue have exhibited some beneficial clinical effects in open-label trials. Neural grafting has, however, not become a standard treatment for several reasons. First, the supply of donor cells is limited, and therefore, surgery is accompanied by difficult logistics. Second, the extent of beneficial effects has varied in a partly unpredictable manner. Third, some patients have exhibited graft-related side effects in the form of involuntary movements. Fourth, in two major double-blind placebo-controlled trials, there was no effect of the transplants on the primary endpoints. Nevertheless, neural transplantation continues to receive a great deal of interest, and now, attention is shifting to the idea of using stem cells as starting donor material. In the context of stem cell therapy for PD, stem cells can be divided into three categories: neural stem cells, embryonic stem cells, and other tissue-specific types of stem cells, e.g., bone marrow stem cells. Each type of stem cell is associated with advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we review recent advances of stem cell research of direct relevance to clinical application in PD and highlight the pros and cons of the different sources of cells. We draw special attention to some key problems that face the translation of stem cell technology into the clinical arena.