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.


Greek researchers enlist EU satellite against Aegean sea litter

Greek university students gently deposits a wall-sized PVC frame on the surface before divers moor them at sea at a beach in the island of Lesbos on April 18, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 22 April 2019
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Greek researchers enlist EU satellite against Aegean sea litter

  • “All the targets were carried into the sea, the satellites passed by and we’re ready to fill out the first report”
  • Satellite data is provided free from the European Space Agency (ESA) and hours after the overpass targets should be detected from the Sentinel-2 satellite

LESBOS ISLAND, Greece: Knee-deep in water on a picture-postcard Lesbos island beach, a team of Greek university students gently deposits a wall-sized PVC frame on the surface before divers moor it at sea.
Holding in plastic bags and bottles, four of the 5 meter-by-5-meter (16 foot-by-16-foot) frames are part of an experiment to determine if seaborne litter can be detected with EU satellites and drones.
“This was the first big day,” says project supervisor Konstantinos Topuzelis, an assistant professor at the University of the Aegean department of Marine Sciences, said of the scene from last week.
“All the targets were carried into the sea, the satellites passed by and we’re ready to fill out the first report.”
The results of the experiment — “Satellite Testing and Drone Mapping for Marine Plastics on the Aegean Sea” — by the university’s Marine Remote Sensing Group will be presented at a European Space Agency symposium in Milan in May.
“Marine litter is a global problem that affects all the oceans of the world,” Topouzelis told AFP.
Millions of tons of plastic end up in the oceans, affecting marine wildlife all along the food chain.
“Modern techniques are necessary to detect and quantify marine plastics in seawater,” Topouzelis added, noting that space agencies have already been looking into how drones and satellites can help with the clean-up.
“The main advantage is that we are using existing tools,” which brings down costs and makes it easier to scale up, says Dimitris Papageorgiou, one of the 60 undergraduate and postgraduate students who worked on the experiment.
To prepare, the team gathered some 2,000 plastic bottles and lashed them to the frames. Other targets were crafted with plastic bags, as these are even harder to spot in the water and usually constitute the deadliest threat to Aegean marine life such as dolphins, turtles and seals.
In 2018, a first phase in the experiment was able to detect large targets of around 100 square meters from space.
This year’s experiment uses targets a quarter that size to test the smallest detectable area under various weather conditions.
“It was a crazy idea,” laughs Topouzelis.
“We knew that the European satellite system passes at regular intervals with a spatial resolution of 10 meters.”
In theory, then, the satellites should be able to detect the floating rafts of plastic the team pushed out to sea.
The University of the Aegean is working on the project with Universidad de Cadiz in Spain, CNR-Ismar in Italy and UK environmental consultants Argans Ltd.
Satellite data is provided free from the European Space Agency (ESA) and hours after the overpass targets should be detected from the Sentinel-2 satellite.
The project acts as a calibration and validation exercise on the detection capabilities of the satellites.
But even if relatively small patches of plastic garbage can be spotted from orbiting satellites, the problem of how to remove it from the sea remains.
Last year, a giant floating barrier five years in the making was launched off the coast of San Francisco, as part of a $20-million project to clean up a swirling island of rubbish between California and Hawaii.
But the slow speed of the solar-powered barrier prevents it from holding onto the plastic after it scoops it up.