PEOPLE with Parkinson’s disease could walk again following a major breakthrough.
Researchers have shown in experiments with rats that mobility can be restored in patients with the degenerative disease.
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The experiments have not yet been tried on humans, but scientists say the results show a “measurable and repeatable basis” to fight the disease.
The Mexican study, led by Jorge Aceves Ruiz, a physiology expert and emeritus researcher, uses stem cells to generate a type of nerve cells known as dopaminergic cells and reactivate the production of the chemical dopamine in the brains of rats with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
People with Parkinson’s do not have enough dopamine because some nerve cells in their brain have died.
Without dopamine, people can find their movements become slower.
Parkinson’s is a major degenerative disease of the body’s motor system. There are around 127,000 people in Britain with the illness.
Scottish comedian Billy Connolly has been diagnosed as suffering from the early stages of the disease.
Doctor Ruiz, of the Centre for Research and Advanced Studies in Mexico, said: “Our treatment has allowed us to recover these motor impairments, which is associated with the recovery of neurons, which are the first thing that gets damaged in Parkinson’s disease.
“We found that, apparently, the treatment by ‘neurogenesis’ allows these newly formed neurons to be able to innervate, meaning that from stem cells present in the tissue itself, cell differentiation towards dopaminergic [cells] is induced.”
Until 35 years ago, virtually nothing was known about the part of the brain called the basal ganglia where the nerve cells that make and release neurotransmitters such as dopamine are located.
Experiments with adult rats continue. The Mexican research has opened other fields of study on the action of dopamine.
There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s, but drugs and treatments are available to manage many of its symptoms.
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