TOKYO: Japanese researchers said on Friday (November 9th) that they had transplanted stem cells into a patient's brain in the first stage of an innovative study to cure Parkinson's disease.
The research team at the University of Kyoto injected induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells, which have the potential to develop into any cell in the body in the brains of a male patient in the 50s, said the university in – a press release.
The man was stable after the surgery last month, and will now be monitored for two years, the university added.
The researchers injected 2.4 million IPS cells into the left side of the patient's brain in an operation that lasted about three hours.
If there are no problems in the next six months, they will implant another 2.4 million cells to the right.
IPS cells from healthy donors have been developed in precursors of dopamine-producing brain cells, which are no longer present in people with Parkinson's disease.
The operation came after the university announced in July that it would conduct the trial with seven participants aged 50-69.
It is the first to involve the implantation of stem cells into the brain to heal Parkinson's.
"I appreciate the patients for courage and determination," professor at the University of Kyoto Jun Takahashi said on Friday, according to NHK television.
Parkinson's disease is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder that affects the body's motor system, often causing agitation and other movement difficulties.
Worldwide, about 10 million people have the disease, according to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation.
Currently available devices "improve symptoms without slowing down or stopping progression of the disease," says the foundation.
The human process comes after a previous trial involving monkeys.
Researchers announced last year that primates with Parkinson's symptoms regained significant mobility after iPS cells were inserted into their brains.
They also confirmed that iPS cells did not turn into tumors within two years of implantation.
IPS cells are created by stimulating mature, already specialized cells in a juvenile state – in principle cloning without the need for an embryo.
Cells can be transformed into a range of different types of cells, and their use is a key sector of medical research.