Cloning Cures Parkinson's -- in Mice
First Use of Cloned Stem Cells to Treat Brain Disorder
WebMD News Archive
Sept. 22, 2003 -- A new technique may help stem cell research
move out of the laboratory and into more animals, including humans.
In the first example of using cloning to treat a brain-related
disorder, researchers have successfully used cloned mouse stem cells to
generate sufficient and specific cells to treat mice with a Parkinson's
Researchers say it's only the second report of successful
therapeutic cloning in animals.
The ultimate goal of successful therapeutic cloning is to
create healthy, specialized cells to replace those damaged by disease. By using
the patient's own cells and modifying them in the laboratory, the specialized
cells are genetically identical to the patient and can be transplanted without
the risk of rejection.
In this study, researchers were able to transplant cloned mouse
dopamine cells directly into mice with Parkinson's disease and relieve their
People with Parkinson's disease experience a loss of the brain
chemical known as dopamine. This loss of dopamine produces problems in motor
function and muscle stiffness.
Many of the drugs currently used to treat Parkinson's disease
attempt to replace lost dopamine in order to lessen these symptoms.
A Better Way to Clone
Researchers say that until now, the procedures necessary to
clone embryonic stem cells in the lab were too time-intensive and raised some
safety concerns in previous studies in mice. Embryonic stem cells are used in
cloning research because they are the simplest form of cells and provide the
building blocks for growing all of the more specialized cells.
In this study, published in Nature Biotechnology,
researchers used a new cloning technique that allowed them to produce
specialized dopamine cells from mouse embryonic stem cells in less time and
with less risk than in previous studies. When transplanted into mice with
Parkinson's disease, these cloned dopamine cells survived and alleviated the
symptoms of the disease.
Researcher Tiziano Barberi, of the Sloan-Kettering Institute in
New York City, and colleagues say the new method offers a simpler, more rapid,
and versatile means to produce cloned stem cells for the treatment of a wide
variety of brain disorders, including Parkinson's disease.
But they say that although the use of cloned stem cells holds
great promise for treating many diseases, it has not yet been tested in