Parkinson’s is a disease that affects the brain cells that produce dopamine. Dopamine helps send messages to the part of the brain that controls movement, and people with Parkinson’s will experience tremors, imbalance, loss of facial and other muscle control, as well as a number of other symptoms. Even though the cause of the disease is not known, because the disease affects one single type of cell – the dopamine producing neuron – it is a good candidate for stem cell therapy.
Currently there are no Health Canada or FDA approved stem cell treatments available for Parkinson’s disease, but researchers are working with transplanted stem cells as a way to reboot the affected neurons, with some success. More work needs to be done to identify the best type of stem cell to use, the best way to grow the cells into neurons and the best way to transplant them into patients before such treatments can become routinely available.