Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Scientists create personalized stem cells from skin to treat Parkinson’s Disease

Image of a male rhesus macaque by Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive degenerative disorder that targets the nervous system, mainly dopamine neurons, and impairs muscle movements. As the disease progresses, it can also lead to depression and other neurological symptoms. Current treatments are limited to improving symptoms but are not able to cure the disease.

A recent study published in Nature Medicine tested whether stem cells could reverse symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. Rather than using fetal stem cells, scientists opted to create personalized induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs, from the skin of rhesus monkeys that had Parkinson’s disease. They then transplanted these personalized stem cells into the animal’s brain. Animals that received the personalized stem cells were able to move around better and were more agile 2 years after the transplant compared to prior. In addition, the animals were in a better mood and had improved dopamine binding to neurons.  

An advantage of using a patient’s own cells to create stem cells is that it avoids immune system rejection that may arise when using donor cells. The improvements observed in this study help further pave the way towards developing this technique for use in humans with Parkinson’s disease.


Y Tao, SC Vermilyea, M Zammit, J Lu, M Olsen, JM Metzger, L Yao, Y Chen, S Phillips, JE Holden, V Bondarenko, WF Block, TE Barnhart, N Schultz-Darken, K Brunner, H Simmons, BT Christian, ME Emborg, S-C Zhang. Autologous transplant therapy alleviates motor and depressive behaviors in parkinsonian monkeys. Nature Medicine. 27: 632-639, 2021.

Stem Cell Transplant Treats Parkinson’s Disease in Monkeys | The Scientist Magazine® (

Categories: Aging, Intelligence and Neuroscience

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