The journal, Cell, has published an article (free abstract, full article and supplements for purchase) on patient-derived induced Pleuripotent Stem Cells (iPSC’s) that appear to be brain neurons that produce dopamine, which is lacking in Parkinson’s patients.
Besides being derived from the patient’s own skin cells (they won’t be rejected and are cheaper and more accessible to more of us than embryonic), and being non-destructive (no embryos destroyed – and, did I say, cheaper and more accessible?), these iPSC’s were derived using viruses that can be purposefully, and apparently, fully removed from the culture.
The plans apparently are to use the cells to study the disease. However, with the history of the debate over this disease, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them used to treat the donors’ Parkinson’s disease very soon. Parkinson’s is so devastating to patients and their families that several attempts to use brain transplants of aborted embryonic and fetal tissues have been used on real patients, with disastrous results. These iPSC’s should be safer than fetal tissues.