Further to my post on the Oxford “breakthrough”, researchers in Edinburgh and London say that they have “generated stem cells from one of the most rapidly-progressing forms of [Parkinson’s] disease.” It seems, from the Press Association article, that similar methods were used as at Oxford, with skin cells harvested from a Parkinson’s patient being used to generate brain cells.The key difference is that this patient has a rare form of the disease:
The neuron cells were generated from a patient with a form of the disease that progresses quickly and can be diagnosed in people in their early 30s. People with this form of Parkinson’s have twice as many of the genes that produce a protein, alpha synuclein, compared with the general population.
Although this form of the condition is rare, the protein involved is linked to virtually all types of the disease. The study was funded with a £300,000 grant from Parkinson’s UK.
The study was published three days ago in Nature. The research provides a useful tool for testing new theories and treatments in a dish; the aggressive nature of this patient’s condition allows results to be seen sooner.
The graphic shown below demonstrates some of the differences seen in culture (i.e. in the petri dish) between the Parkinson’s patient and a healthy relative.
DAPI is a fluorescent stain that binds strongly to regions in DNA that are rich in adenine and thymine (two of the four nucleotide bases in DNA). α-Syn refers to the presence of alpha synuclein; TuJ1 is a Neural Stem Cell Marker.
The images also look quite pretty.