Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative condition that is classically characterised by slowness of movement, unstable gait, stiff muscles, and tremor. These motor symptoms are caused by the loss of a specific type of neurons which produce and release a chemical called dopamine. As the dopamine-producing neurons are progressively lost, the motor symptoms of PD worsen but can be controlled for some time with medications that help boost the levels of dopamine in the brain. However, as the disease progresses further, these medications become less effective and increasingly hampered by side-effects. To date, there are no existing treatments which can slow down the progress of PD or stop the loss of the dopamine-producing neurons. As the human brain cannot repair itself through the generation of new neurons, the lost neurons in PD cannot be regained unless they are transplanted from external sources such as stem cells.
STEM-PD is a so-called “cell replacement therapy” which aims to replace the already lost and dying dopamine neurons with new ones through cell transplantation – thus repairing the brain and improving symptoms. The overall goal of the STEM-PD trial is to treat the main motor symptoms of PD, which are caused by a lack of dopamine in the brain. The aim of the STEM-PD treatment is thereby to re-establish motor control in PD patients while limiting the need for daily dopamine-modifying medications.
In addition, there are also a range of “non-motor” symptoms which are experienced by some people with Parkinson’s disease. These can be sleep disturbances, bowel and bladder problems and cognitive impairment. Such non-motor symptoms are to a large extent independent of dopamine and are thereby not the main target of a cell therapy such as STEM-PD. If you would like to learn more about Parkinson’s disease, please visit the following link: www.parkinsons.org.uk.