Unleashing brain support cells may help slow Parkinson’s disease

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By Ed Pinches | Wednesday 24 June 2020

Today (Wednesday 24 June) researchers from the US and China have shown they can reprogramme brain cells using RNA-based genetic manipulation to help limit Parkinson’s disease in mice. The findings are published in the prestigious scientific journal, Nature.

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“The human brain is a complex organ, with researchers constantly looking at ways to restore the balance of chemistry in the brain during disease. In this intriguing study researchers used gene therapy to reduce the levels of a protein in a mouse with features of Parkinson’s, converting the brain’s support cells known as astrocytes into the nerve cells that are usually affected in Parkinson’s, helping restore the delicate balance of chemistry in the brain.

“Advances in technologies like this are vital and this is promising and well-conducted early-stage research, but it is in mice and it’s not yet clear whether this approach could be used in people. Further research will need to develop a better understanding of the potential adverse effects of converting these cells in this way before we can know whether this technique is even possible in a human brain.

“Findings like this do highlight the potential of medical research, but critical progress is at stake and it’s essential that dementia research is backed by the government throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Research is the only way we can end the fear, heartbreak and harm that diseases like Parkinson’s cause.”

Nature: Reversing a model of Parkinson’s disease with in-situ converted nigral neurons

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Ed Pinches