Japan team transplants stem cells into brain of Parkinson’s patient

Hope of a Parkinson’s breakthrough as experts transplant MILLIONS of stem cells into a patient’s brain ‘to regrow parts ravaged by the disease’

  • Experts at Kyoto University in Japan performed the first-of-its-kind procedure
  • The man is in his 50s and is one of seven people who will take part in the trial 
  • The procedure has successfully restored lost mobility in tests on primates 
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Millions of stem cells have been put into the brain of a human patient to try and treat Parkinson’s for the first time.

Researchers have revealed they inserted the stem cells – blank cells which can transform into other useful types – into a man in his fifties in Japan.

The operation was performed last month and is a landmark step forward in trialling new treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

The team hope the stem cells will help regrow parts of the brain which are damaged by the disease, after trials on monkeys showed they got back lost mobility.

Researchers have revealed they inserted the stem cells – blank cells which can transform into other useful types – into a man in his fifties in Japan

And they praised the ‘courage and determination’ of the seven people who will be involved in the pioneering study.

Scientists from Kyoto University injected induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into the man.

These are cells which occur naturally in the body – more so in babies – and have the potential to transform into one of many other types of cells.

The man was stable after the operation and he will now be monitored for two years, the university added.

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The researchers injected 2.4 million iPS cells into the left side of the patient’s brain in an operation which took about three hours.

If no problems are observed in the coming six months, they will implant another 2.4 million cells into the right side.

The iPS cells from healthy donors have been developed into dopamine-producing brain cells, which people with Parkinson’s disease do not have.

The operation came after the university announced in July they would carry out the trial with seven participants aged between 50 and 69.

It is the first involving implanting stem cells into the brain to cure Parkinson’s.

‘I appreciate the patients for participating in the trial with courage and determination,’ said Professor Jun Takahashi, according to public broadcaster NHK.

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder that affects the body’s motor system, often causing shaking and other difficulties in movement.

Worldwide, about 10million people have the illness, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.

Currently available therapies ‘improve symptoms without slowing or halting the disease progression,’ the foundation said.

The human trial comes after an earlier trial involving monkeys.

Last year, primates with Parkinson’s symptoms regained significant mobility after iPS cells were inserted into their brains.

Scientists also confirmed the iPS cells had not transformed into tumours during the two years after the implant.

iPS cells are created by stimulating mature, already specialised, cells back into a juvenile state – basically cloning without the need for an embryo.

The cells can be transformed into a range of different types of cells, and their use is a key sector of medical research.


Parkinson’s disease affects one in 500 people, and around 127,000 people in the UK live with the condition.

Figures also suggest one million Americans also suffer.

It causes muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, tremors, sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, an impaired quality of life and can lead to severe disability.

It is a progressive neurological condition that destroys cells in the part of the brain that controls movement.

Sufferers are known to have diminished supplies of dopamine because nerve cells that make it have died.

There is currently no cure and no way of stopping the progression of the disease, but hundreds of scientific trials are underway to try and change that.  

The disease claimed the life of boxing legend Muhammad Ali in 2016.

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