The researchers reprogrammed these cells to act as stem cells and then turn them into precursors for those who produce a neurotransmitter whose absence is involved in the disease.
Cells became precursors of dopamine, scarce neurotransmitter in patients with Parkinson's disease. He was the first patient of seven who received this treatment. / Getti Images
It seems that the story is taken from the book of science fiction, but it is about what can be considered one of the saddest advances in medicine. According to the scientific journal Nature, Japanese surgeons for the first time implanted "reprogrammed" stem cells in the brain of a person with Parkinson's.
In order to understand the complexity of the procedure, we first need to clarify what the "reprogrammed" stem cell is. Officially known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), these are cells from body tissues, such as the skin, adapted to return to a kind of embryonic state in which they can be converted to any other type of cell. That is, "ordinary" cells that scientists reconfigured to act as stem cells.
In this case, what researchers at the Kyoto University have been able to do is make donor skin cells precursor cells that produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that, when it's scarce, can lead to people having motor problems.
About 2.4 million of these new cells, or ips precursor dopamine, were implanted for the first time in the brain of a 50-year-old patient suffering from Parkinson's disease. During the procedure, which lasted for three hours, the cells were injected into 12 brain areas that are known to be the center of dopamine activity.
Although the procedure proved successful in the trials with monkeys, this is the first time that it has been performed on a man. The results seem to be on the right track. Jun Takahashi, a scientist in charge of giving and reprogramming cells for neurosurgery for implantation, confirmed the nature that, almost a month later, "the patient was good and has not yet had any serious adverse reactions". The team will watch it for six months, and if no complications occur, another 2.4 million dopamine cells will be implanted in their brain.
So, if everything goes well, six more patients will come to this procedure by the end of 2020. In addition, if you go through this first phase and the results of the study are strong enough, Takahashi believes that the treatment can be sold to patients from 2023, under Japanese accelerated authorization system for regenerative drugs. "Of course, it depends on how good the results are," he told the magazine.
This is the second time that a clinical trial uses reprogrammed stem cells or iPS. The first trainee was ophthalmologist Masaio Takahashi, wife of Jun, who created retinal cells retina, iPS and used them to treat certain eye diseases.