One experimental treatment for Parkinson’s involves the potential replacement of lost dopamine neurons by transplanting new stem cells into the brain. Biotech company Aspen Neuroscience will soon be starting a clinical trial in the US exploring this potential therapy in people with Parkinson’s.

Aspen Neuroscience – a biotech company based in California – has recently been granted approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to pursue a clinical trial of their ‘autologous cell transplantation’ therapy for Parkinson’s. Autologous cell transplantation refers to the use of a person’s own cells that have been adapted to use as a replacement of those cells lost or damaged due to a disease or other condition. In the case of Parkinson’s, this is a process of transforming a person’s own cells into special dopamine neurons (or nerve cells) in the laboratory, then transplanting these into the part of the brain where cells have been lost as the disease progresses.

The benefit of transplanting cells derived directly from a person’s own cells is a reduced risk of an immune response. A common complication with such transplantations is a person’s immune system identifying the transplanted cells as foreign, which elicits an immune response to try and remove this ‘threat’. Aspen Neuroscience has developed a method of creating what are called induced pluripotent stem cells from a person with Parkinson’s own skin tissues turning them into new dopamine neurons that can then be transplanted into the part of the brain affected by Parkinson’s.

The company plans to run a phase 1/2a clinical trial using this therapy and have already begun to screen people with Parkinson’s interested in taking part. The goal of this first trial will be to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of the therapy in people with moderate to severe Parkinson’s and to understand if it has the potential to modify Parkinson’s progression.

Cure Parkinson’s has been supporting the development of cell transplantation for Parkinson’s via the TRANSEURO study and a global consortium called GFORCE-PD.

We look forward to hearing further developments from the Aspen Neuroscience team. To read more about this technology, Aspen Neuroscience has published a press release on the subject.

Image courtesy of Prof. Tilo Kunath

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