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Is it possible for engineered cells to heal Parkinson’s damage?

By Tim Sandle     Sep 15, 2015 in Science
Parkinson’s disease is a type of neurodegenerative disease. As a possible treatment, researchers have engineered smarter immune cells to deliver a healing protein to the brain.
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, mainly affecting the motor system. The primary symptoms are tremors at rest, stiffness, slowing of movement and problems with posture.
To create the immune cells, a science group genetically modified a type of white blood cell (macrophage) to produce a special type of protein called glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor, or GDNF. Once produced, the white blood cells delivered protein to the brain.
The idea behind the protein is that glial cells can provide support and protection for nerve cells throughout the brain and body, as well as healing and triggering the growth of damaged neurons. White blood cells are used so they can cross the blood-brain barrier, which is impenetrable to most medications.
The developed immune cells not only produce and provide a healing protein to the brain; they also instruct neurons to start producing the protein for themselves.
While there is currently no treatment for Parkinson’s disease, the research group think that by a delivering neurotrophic factor to the brain, they can reverse the effects of the disease. This means that the body’s own natural systems could be used to produce, as a bio-factory, a treatment for the debilitating disease.
The process to modify the immune cells is at the development stage. Further research is required before the process reaches human trials.
The research was conducted by scientists working at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The research has been published in the journal PLOS One. The paper is titled “GDNF-Transfected Macrophages Produce Potent Neuroprotective Effects in Parkinson's Disease Mouse Model.”
In related news, a new technique, using nanotechnology, has shown promise for treating Parkinson’s disease. The method has been tested out using rats. The data is promising enough to suggest that the method could, one day, be used on people.
More about Parkinson's Disease, Cells, Protein, Blood cells, white blood cells
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