A new therapy for Parkinson’s disease heralds a new era in medicine

TOKYO Stem cells have enormous promise in regenerative medicine, with the potential to treat a range of injuries and diseases. The main roadblock has been ethical concerns regarding the use of human embryonic tissue. But now, new technologies are starting to come onto the market that sidestep those issues, opening the door to innovative therapies, as well as identify new drugs by screening using stem cells.

International Stem Cell Corp. (ISCO) will soon start a phase I clinical trial in Australia using the company’s ISC-hpNSC, human parthenogenetic stem cell-derived neural stem cells, for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disease.

International Stem Cell Corp. CSO Russell Kern, Ph.D.

California-based ISCO pioneered the development of a new class of stem cells, produced by chemically stimulating unfertilized human oocytes (egg cells), thereby creating a host of opportunities to treat a broad range of diseases. The unfertilized eggs do not have the potential to become embryos, and no viable embryo is created or destroyed.

The Nikkei Asian Review recently spoke with Russell Kern, Ph.D., chief scientific officer of the company, about the upcoming clinical trial and new developments in regenerative medicine.

Can you elaborate on the clinical trial about to start in Australia? Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder and a serious disease that affects millions of people all over the world. The disease occurs when dopaminergic neurons die in an area of the brain that controls movement. Dopaminergic neurons produce an important brain chemical messenger or neurotransmitter known as dopamine. When the dopaminergic neurons die, there is a shortage of dopamine that causes the movement problems of people with Parkinson’s. The clinical trial we are about to start in Australia is based on extensive preclinical studies in rodents and nonhuman primates. After transplantation of ISCO’s stem cells, our studies showed a significant increase in brain dopamine levels as well as neurotrophic support and cell replacement of dopaminergic neurons. The studies demonstrated improvement in Parkinson’s disease symptoms, while being safe, well tolerated and not causing severe adverse effects.

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