Japan team transplants stem cells into brain to treat Parkinson’s

Induced Pluripotent Stem cells are created by stimulating mature, already specialized, cells back into a juvenile state. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2018
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Japan team transplants stem cells into brain to treat Parkinson’s

  • The research team at Kyoto University injected induced Pluripotent Stem cells into the brain of a male patient in his fifties
  • Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder that affects the body’s motor system

TOKYO: Japanese researchers said Friday they have transplanted stem cells into the brain of a patient in the first stage of an innovative trial to cure Parkinson’s disease.
The research team at Kyoto University injected induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells — which have the potential to develop into any cell in the body — into the brain of a male patient in his fifties, the university said in a press release.
The man was stable after the operation, which was performed last month, and he 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 took about three hours.
If no problems are observed in the coming six months, they will implant another 2.4 million cells into the right side.
The iPS cells from healthy donors have been developed into the 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 they would carry out the trial with seven participants aged between 50 and 69.
It is the first involving implanting stem cells into the brain to cure Parkinson’s.
“I appreciate the patients for participating in the trial with courage and determination,” Kyoto University professor Jun Takahashi told reporters on Friday, according to public broadcaster NHK.
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder that affects the body’s motor system, often causing shaking and other difficulties in movement.
Worldwide, about 10 million people have the illness, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.
Currently available therapies “improve symptoms without slowing or halting the disease progression,” the foundation says.
The human trial comes after an earlier 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 the iPS cells had not transformed into tumors during the two years after the implant.
iPS cells are created by stimulating mature, already specialized, cells back into a juvenile state — basically cloning without the need for an embryo.
The cells can be transformed into a range of different types of cells, and their use is a key sector of medical research.


Chinese scientist who gene-edited babies fired by university

Updated 21 January 2019
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Chinese scientist who gene-edited babies fired by university

  • Hundreds of Chinese and international scientists condemned He Jiankui
  • Chinese authorities also denounced He and issued a temporary halt to research activities involving the editing of human genes

SHENZHEN, China: A Chinese scientist responsible for what he said were the world’s first “gene-edited” babies evaded oversight and broke guidelines in a quest for fame and fortune, state media said on Monday, as the university where he worked announced his dismissal.
He Jiankui said in November that he used a gene-editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to alter the embryonic genes of twin girls born that month, sparking an international outcry about the ethics and safety of such research.
Hundreds of Chinese and international scientists condemned He and said any application of gene editing on human embryos for reproductive purposes was unethical.
Chinese authorities also denounced He and issued a temporary halt to research activities involving the editing of human genes.
He had “deliberately evaded oversight” with the intent of creating a gene-edited baby “for the purpose of reproduction,” according to the initial findings of an investigating team set up by the Health Commission of China in southern Guangdong province, Xinhua news agency reported.
He had raised funds himself and privately organized a team of people to carry out the procedure in order to “seek personal fame and profit,” Xinhua said, adding that he had forged ethical review papers in order to enlist volunteers for the procedure.
The safety and efficacy of the technologies He used are unreliable and creating gene-edited babies for reproduction is banned by national decree, the report said.
The Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in the city of Shenzhen, said in a statement on its website that He had been fired.
“Effective immediately, SUSTech will rescind the work contract with Dr. Jiankui He and terminate any of his teaching and research activities at SUSTech,” the statement said.
The university added the decision came after a preliminary investigation by the Guangdong Province Investigation Task Force.
Neither He nor a representative could be reached for comment on Monday.
He defended his actions at a conference in Hong Kong in November, saying that he was “proud” of what he had done and that gene editing would help protect the girls from being infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
He’s announcement sparked a debate among Chinese legal scholars over which laws He had technically broken by carrying out the procedure, as well as whether he could be held criminally responsible or not.
Many scholars pointed to a 2003 guideline that bans altered human embryos from being implanted for the purpose of reproduction, and says altered embryos cannot be developed for more than 14 days.
The case files of those involved who are suspected of committing crimes had been sent to the ministry of public security, an unnamed spokesperson for the investigation team was quoted by Xinhua as saying.