REUTERS – Skin cells reprogrammed to produce the neurotransmitter dopamine and inserted deep into the brain of a 69-year-old man with Parkinson’s disease have allowed him to tie his shoes again and resume swimming and biking, researchers reported in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.
The experimental treatment, initiated two years ago and financed partly by the patient, used the man’s own skin cells to create dopamine-releasing nerve cells. Using his own cells dramatically lowers the risk of rejection by the immune system.
Parkinson’s, a progressive disease that affects millions of people worldwide, produces tremors, stiffness, and problems walking and speaking as the dopamine-producing cells in the brain degenerate.
Researchers say the transformed skin cells, transplanted into both hemispheres of the brain in surgical procedures six months apart, continued to produce the dopamine needed to ease the Parkinson’s symptoms.