Human induced pluripotent stem cells (credit: UCSD)
A nationwide consortium of scientists at 20 institutions, led by a principal faculty member at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), has used stem cells to take a major step toward developing personalized medicine to treat Parkinson’s disease.
In part supported by the Harvard Miller Consortium for the Development of Nervous System Therapies, the team of scientists created induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) from the skin cells of patients and at-risk individuals carrying genetic mutations implicated in Parkinson’s disease, and used those cells to derive neural cells, providing a platform for studying the disease in human cells outside of patients.
The researchers also report that although approximately 15 genetic mutations are linked to forms of Parkinson’s, many seem to affect themitochondria, the cell unit that produces most of its energy.
“This is the first comprehensive study of how human neuronal cells can be models of Parkinson’s, and how it might be treated,” said Ole Isacson, a leader of the study, an HSCI principal faculty member, and a Harvard Medical School professor of neurology, based at McLean Hospital’s Neuroregeneration Laboratory.